Saturday, 24 July 2010

Album review: Crooks and Lovers - Mount Kimbie (Hotflush)

There has been speculation for some time as to which dubstep album will fully cross over and do a 'Goldie' or a 'Roni Size' as each of these artists did during the drum n bass years. Burial was the early contender, his off kilter beats and dancehall vocal samples playing well with the coffee tables of north London and beyond. Next came Benga - by putting monster single Night on his Diary of an Afro Warrier album he was guaranteed an audience and in my opinion this has been the best long playing articulation yet of the dubstep sound.

Benga has a finger in the pie of one of 2010's main contenders - his Magnetic Man project with Skream and Artwork is likely to take dubstep to the masses, a universties tour is planned for the autumn and if the reaction they got at Benecassim is anything to go by (and given that they've already had a top ten hit) they are likely to be huge. In the meantime however we have the debut album from Mount Kimbie, subtler than Magnetic Man for sure but the London duo of Kai Campos and Dom Maker are generating lots of interest following their recent excellent Maybe's EP.

Like the also much feted James Blake, they take a more mellow appraisal of the dubstep sound and weave in lush synthesiation and ambient textures to create the feel of a sound that washes over you in many places. Crooks and Lovers continues this journey, albeit only for 35 minutes.

What soon becomes apparant is that this isn't solely a dubstep album. Rather it is a culmination of the sounds that have dominated the UK underground dance scene in the last decade. drum n bass, garage, two-step and dubstep are all in the mix to create something that might just be something new.

The other notable point of interest is Mount Kimbie's ability to combine an urban electronic sound with a more humane dimension. Snatches of voices, instrumentation and hand claps are built into the mix to create a real warmth. The album actually starts with accoustic guitar and there are a number of interludes throughout which sounds as though the guys are just playing about in the studio. While not similar in sound to say Boards of Canada, they share a similar understanding of the need to bring warmth to digital experimentation.

A few tracks (Carbonated, Before I Move Off) make use of loops of fragmented human vocal to create the sense of a vocal and yet no words are ever heard. Before I move off has a slightly eastern vibe at the front end yet ends up as a fairly conventional garage tune while Carbonated somehow manages to sound both fast and slow at the same time. It has a lovely gentle feel to it and is typical of the sense of invention throughout.

Other tracks create a wide range of moods and feels. Ode to Bear is mournful in feel and you can almost imagine a guy with a dustcart cleaning the grimy city streets at 4am. Mayor meanwhile is definately one for the dancefloor -it manages to use organic sounds to create a loopy rural garage vibe if such a thing exists. Blind Night Errand features a heavy sub woofer bass and is much more in Drum n Bass teritory and only on Ruby do you get the sense of what might be regarded as a conventional dubstep tune - its clicking beats and atmospheric synths typical of the dominating sound of the last few years.

As a whole the album is diverse and features a dizzying array of styles and yet at no time does it feel over complex or cluttered. I'm fairly sure it won't cross-over in a big way, the hooks aren't strong enough for the mainstream but one can't help but be impressed with the sense of adventure and the clear love of the protagonists for clubland culture. This is an excellent release and a suitable starting point for those who want to hear what is going on in electronic music right now. Repeated listens will be rewarded as the subtleties contained within reveal themselves.

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