by BENJI TAYLOR
Music is a constantly shifting and evolving beast, parasitical to some extent, its various genres and sub-genres frequently splintering and fragmenting, and preying on each other for continual inspiration. Few genres change as rapidly as electronic dance music: the genre known as dub-step, with its reverberating sub-bass and syncopated patters of percussion – prophesied to take over the music world back in 2009 – was seemingly over before it had begun, with poster-boys Mount Kimbie and James Blake flying the banners for ‘post-dubstep’, the somewhat ambiguous style of sound that emerged from its ashes.
Cold Spring Fault Less Youth is Mount Kimbie’s sophomore album, and the follow-up to 2009’s wonderfully constructed critical smash Crooks & Lovers, which was an intricately weaved tapestry of broody electronica that set-up band members Dominic Maker and Kai Campos not only as talents to watch, but as potential future producer-extraordinaires in the making. Crucially, and tellingly in terms of how their sound has developed since the release of their debut, the new album is released on British independent label Warp Records, home to experimental electronic music heavyweights such as Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada. Previous label Hotflush never felt like the perfect home for Mount Kimbie, especially since in recent years the style of music that Hotflush has been releasing has been more aligned with techno.
Never shy of the experimental, Cold Spring Fault Less Youth finds Mount Kimbie broadening the scope of their sound substantially, eschewing their first LP’s sole reliance on electronics so that they echo the Atoms For Peace desire to craft an album on which it’s difficult to discern where the organic ends and the electronic begins. The album differs in two instantly recognisable ways to their debut: with the inclusion of genuine vocals as oppose to Crooks & Lovers’ dependence on vocal samples and snippets, and the addition of an organic direction to their music- the presence of guitars and other live-sounding instrumentation.
Certain key characteristics from their debut have been maintained- the tracks remain understated and nuanced- the energy and ambience ebbs and flows in subtle waves rather than exploding in peaks and crescendos. Opening track “Home Recording” is the perfect example of this: a delicious marriage of reverb-soaked electronic percussion, smooth organ sounds and fragile vocals from Campos, flecked by delicate orchestral woodwind flourishes. “You Took Your Time” is the first of two stirring tracks to showcase vocals from nineteen year-old ‘darkwave’ upstart King Krule, whose shadowy poetic lyricism serves as the perfect accompaniment to the subtly menacing synths and shrill snares. Krule’s gorgeous drawl is darker and more moody than his tender years would attest, displaying a talent that recalls a rhyming ability comparable with Morrissey (“The silent calm and the violent charm held in the depths of a tyrant’s palm…”)
Lead single and album highlight “Made To Stray” is a masterclass of production, a slow-burning diamond of a track featuring an evolving skittering drum arrangement that evokes the sound of fingers anxiously tapping on wood, before adding deep bass, horns and glitchy synth sounds; by the time the melodic vocals arrive it feels like a moment of adulation. Elsewhere the album embarks on an impossible-to-label and genre-defying escapade: “So Many Times, So Many Ways” is driven by spidery guitar loops and thumping bass guitar, “Slow” is a meaty slab of squealing and euphoric electro-funk, whilst “Break Well” begins as an ambient electro-instrumental before taking a decidedly poppy turn one minute from the end.
Ultimately Cold Spring Fault Less Youth is a fascinating record, a series of varied and elaborate soundscapes that find the right balance of mood and melody. Like the world we live in it is sometimes bleak and sometimes blissful; but a journey through this type of pioneering genre-straddling electronic music will always be a captivating listening experience. [B+]
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