event // mount kimbie @ the hi-fi, melbourne (03/05/12)
The answer to those first two questions is one that will likely never be resolved, but my hopes for the future of the murky depths of bass music are solidified by acts such as London’s ambient-electronica duo Mount Kimbie.
The spacious and windswept empty spaces and delicate, scattered beats of their first few singles and the outstanding debut album Crooks and Lovers all released through Paul Rose’s seminal imprint Hotfush, bear little resemblance to anything out there - especially in terms of anything tagged with ‘dubstep’, that is arguably one of Mount Kimbie’s greatest achievements. It’s artists like these, who play with the most appealing elements of genres whilst creating something entirely fresh and inventive from their rigid constraints that will ensure that dubstep remains a lively breeding ground for the newest and best in electronica’s emerging talent. And with Mount Kimbie, there’s no limiting genre to neatly slot them into - they’re teasingly, seductively undefinable, playing with the textures of cut-up and decidedly electronic beats alongside twisted instrumental samples and grainy, sunsplashed field recordings.
The result is a record that feels equally at home on your headphones walking back at 6AM from a night out, as it does in the immersive, cavernous surrounds of the clubs and stages you’ll frequently find them on these days. Equal measures pastoral and urban, Crooks and Lovers in particular is a success in creating a completely immersive musical experience - one that many other producers tend to neglect in a world where the EP and 12” dominate clubs and headphones. Offered the opportunity to catch them on their second tour of Australia after missing out on their debut shows due to a tragically paltry student budget neatly coinciding with the weekend of my 21st birthday was too much to pass up.
The Hi-Fi is one of Melbourne’s most outstanding music venues for electronic music - with a soundsystem that’s equally at home housing the best of Melbourne’s touring bands as it is for DJs, with an intimate stage space and a capacity that ensures every gig is crowded and sweaty, but not to the point where it becomes impersonal, it was the perfect setting to be immersed in the otherworldly soundscapes of Mount Kimbie.
Their performance was everything I’d hoped for and beyond. There aren’t a multitude of moments I can recall where a single song has made my heart freeze, time melt away, all those cliches - but their live shows are honestly something truly beautiful to witness.
So frequently is the term “atmospheric” used in dance music press that I suspect it’s lost a lot of meaning for many consumers of electronica. What the fuck do people even mean when they use it? It’s a generic and convenient catch-all for lazy journalists like me - and yet I can’t help but feel it summarises what they’re about perfectly. The duo, in previous interviews, have spoken about their liberal use of field recordings in constructing their tracks. Cathedrals, footsteps; the sounds of a city coming to life.
Dom: I was thinking about this today actually, I suppose it forced us to adopt the rhythms of an environment, and to think about how we build those rhythms, and why we are using them. The first time we came down here with a field mic, we were just recording the sound of my bike and then we went to the Southbank and recorded the sounds of skateboarders there, which we used on the album.
I get what you mean, the way you describe the album, because its very visual I think, dreamy almost. Each track is very different from the others, they all stay within this frame, and within each track itself it’s like a dream, going on and on.
And that’s something that permeates the sprawling, hazy soundscapes shot through with the eerie and ethereal. Their live show is an intersection between laptop-created sonics as well and live instrumentation. As well as a guitar, they had with them a drum pad which they used as a makeshift drum, I guess - hammering out their offbeat drums with drumsticks, creating something unique and very, very real. I’m trying and I just can’t put it into words.
Opening with the breathy, simplistic melodies of Carbonated, the two flowed smoothly into the guitar-bound, eerie Maybes - a heartstopping affair involving the clever manipulation of a single pitched-up vocal sample and a howling guitar into crescendoes of electric two-step beats and warm spashes of bass, before abruptly pulling it to the ground again as Dom took to the microphone for a rare interlude of unprocessed vocals. “Don’t go tryin’ to tell me - you’re telling me what, now don’t don’t baby, don’t maybes,” he sung in pleading tones on repeat.
Proceeding into a bevy of unreleased material which the duo claimed was part of their upcoming sophomore LP that was a joy to be a part of before ducking back into more familiar territory from Crooks and Lovers, the two spent their seventy minutes on stage creating a stunningly rich and intimate atmosphere that recalled the best of their releases to date, whilst reinterpreting and reappropriating it for the context of the live performance. While some complain that their use of sampling and instrumentation feels too amateur and technically-incompetent live, I would suggest that this is part of their charm - that element of unpredictability and youthfulness is something that lends their music a liveliness and emotive feel that frequently gets crushed into nonexistence by artists who feel the need to quantise and perfect everything to the point of lifelessness.
Heart full to the brim, watching the two leave the stage after an encore comprised of the bubbly and bright Before I Move Off signalled the end of something truly magnificent - I remember stumbling up the staircase from the stagefront with my friend Erica into the autumn air outside afterwards, both of us completely unable to contain our endless exhilaration, squealing and chattering away. The far-off and magical world of Mount Kimbie is one I suggest all fans of electronica make the pilgrimage to at some point - no doubt there’s something for everybody to appreciate in their strange and fantastic world.
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