Young UK production duo Mount Kimbie haven’t made it easy for themselves. Being nearly single-handedly responsible for the term “post-dubstep” coming about, their 2010 debut full-length Crooks and Lovers was one of the most influential records of the past few years, pairing booming bass with subtle flecks of live instrumentation and delicate, subliminally hook-y songwriting. Its release just happened to coincide with the aggressive, over-the-top dubstep becoming big business for American audiences, and Crooks and Lovers indicated that there was a future for thoughtful, austere music built around subharmonic frequencies after all. While this road less traveled has seen a bit of traffic in the years since, with releases from James Blake, Bondax and Disclosure exploring very different manifestations of the sound. Following up such a meaningful debut can be a tough row to hoe, especially for a young act, which could explain the three-year gap between Crooks And Lovers and Mount Kimbie’s sophomore full-length, Cold Spring Fault Less Youth.
On Cold Spring Fault Less Youth, Mount Kimbie begin by deconstructing the formula that made Crooks and Lovers so engaging, and adding more of what works: namely, live instrumentation and ethereal vocals. Not content, however, to rehash their own previous work with subtle tweaks, they then proceed to add a ton of post-rock influences, de-emphasizing the synth bass in favor of live drums and white noise. Underage oddball King Krule lends his gruff, marble-mouthed croon and bizarre cadence to a couple standout tracks, coming across like Tom Waits’ grandson on the jazzy, Tortoise-like “You Took Your Time” and the slightly more groove-centric “Meter, Pale, Tone.” Mount Kimbie’s own Kai Campos handles vocals on the rest of the record, using blurry, soft-focus production tactics to blend his pleasant (if a touch indistinct) voice into the swirl of atmospheric synth pads and staccato guitar work.
Ambitious almost to a fault, Cold Spring Fault Less Youth can be a challenging listen in places, with long segments of nebulous midtempo swirl placed throughout. These experiments ultimately serve the big picture well, however, as the rather obtuse instrumental “So Many Times, So Many Ways” makes an ideal bridge between the peppy, brilliant “Made To Stray” and the pulsing, washed-out “Lie Near.” Where their debut was a collection of beautifully produced dance tracks with a heavy emphasis on the human element, Cold Spring Fault Less Youth is a droney, experimental wall of sound that occasionally wanders across the dancefloor. It’s high-concept and deceptively complicated, more post-genre than post-dubstep, but in the right setting it’s an absolutely magical piece of work.