2010: Why Mount Kimbie ‘Crooks & Lovers’ is our album of the year

Dom and Kai’s album is a work of extraordinary humility, resonance, skill and simplicity.

2010 has been a year of listening, a year of waking up and a year of re-architecting dreams. The future we thought we were living in fell away this year, making room for new possibilities and something that’s starting to taste like change. The catalyst was arguably nothing new – political and economic corruption eroding societal freedom – but the response was radical: acceptance gave way for action, from the student protests to Wikileaks. As this year comes to a close, there’s a decidedly different mood in the air. While I can make no claims on its influence on the music that’s been made, it has most definitely influenced the way I’ve listened. And there’s been so much to listen to: 2010 saw a slew of truly extraordinary, invigorating and intriguing music releases. Stacking up the albums that had me falling again and again, it’s impossible not to pattern-spot. There were the outsider voices uncoiling within very different spaces (Perfume Genius, How To Dress Well, Gil Scott-Heron), enchanting pictures of a future refracted through the past (Wild Nothing, Connan Mockasin, Warpaint) and an endlessly mutating landscape of textures, shapes and shades that turned the dancefloor back into the most vital place to be (Actress, Gold Panda, Lone, Holy Fuck, Teengirl Fantasy, Darkstar, Caribou, Pantha Du Prince…and that’s being strict and sticking to LPs). It could be argued that Mount Kimbie hover somewhere in the middle of that roughly sketched triangle with their debut album but that would be a forced and all too neat post-rationalisation. And I don’t love this album rationally; it’s instinctual, it’s corporeal. David Byrne would get me on this: “Music is very physical and often the body understands it before the head.” So this is my love letter to ‘Crooks & Lovers’, what it makes me feel and why it’s Dummy’s album of 2010.

It opens with an echo. Then the strum of an acoustic guitar, the calls of children, a rushing wave and a reverberating, indecipherable murmur. A collection of sounds that open the airlock to an internal world. There’s one last chance to fill lungs at the beginning of Would Know and then it’s a steady slip under, round and down…

While ‘xx’ – my favourite album of last year – was born out of the still of night-time, ‘Crooks & Lovers’ is a dawn album. Or more precisely, it’s a walking home at dawn album. It teeters on the edge of one day and the start of another, in-between the club and your bed, living in the blur that separates them. Listening, I am taken back to that feeling of being torn too soon from the dancefloor and, not yet ready to face the sleep that spells re-entry into the everyday world, choosing the long walk home. It’s in this moment the two worlds overlap, echoes of the dancefloor resonating with the sounds of a city readying itself to rise: the burr of a car engine in the distance, the tic-click of bicycle spokes, the deep breathing of a ventilation shaft, the hum of a generator, a feeling of being underwater, a voice that doesn’t sound like my own falling from my lips. And there are many echoes: that tone-setting intro of Tunnelvision; the one that signals the build to the drop, that drop, that sweet sweet drop in Carbonated; the chiming, circling ring of Ruby.

Mount Kimbie are masters of sleight of hand, crafting tracks that slip their fingers through yours to guide you round a corner into some other space. None more so than Ode To Bear. It starts with the sound of sleepy heads, warm limbs and smeary make-up eyed smiles: a lullaby to that waking hour you wish would last forever. Then midway through it stirs – eyes are rubbed, wits are gathered, thoughts turn ahead: there’s still more fun to be had. It comes in the form of Field, the heady culmination of the blood running through the veins of ‘Crooks & Lovers’: anticipation. The whole album bristles with it, like the static electricity set off by brushing past strangers in the street, leaving bubbles of wondering in their wake.

The anticipation spun by Mount Kimbie is not one of hype and high hopes though; it’s more humble than that. It rises and falls in the small things, in the detail. ‘Crooks & Lovers’ is an album that understands growth is gradual: it unfolds sparingly, patiently sketching out a suggestion of a new day. Lines circle, shade and crosshatch delicately. The crafting is careful, considered, subtle. This dreaming is not about excess but about sustainability, because “a dream, going on and on” is only possible if there is something nurturing it, if it cared for.

There’s much about that spirit that chimes with 2010: a growing thoughtfulness; a reawakened appreciation for a sparer aesthetic; a noticing of the tiny stitches holding everything together. With ‘Crooks & Lovers’, Mount Kimbie have turned the power and promise of Maybes and William into a fully realised, richly evocative, pace-setting debut album. Unlike any of the other albums I’ve loved this year, it slips and slides away from easy categorisation. It lives neither in the past or the future but instead casts gentle new light on the present. Seeing and seeding anticipation in the starkness of the world around us, ‘Crooks & Lovers’ is the album that best reflects this new mood, this reawakened perspective, these in-between times.

In 2011, other debuts will follow – James Blake, SBTRKT and Jai Paul amongst others – that will no doubt take these hallmarks to somewhere else again. For Mount Kimbie, the dawn of this new year will see them back in the studio crafting who knows what but it’s unlikely to be a rehashing. After all, the days are ahead.

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