Soundtracking the emergency: Is there space for climate change in dance music?
The last five or so years have been a particularly rich time for UK electronic music: a time that’s seen the innovators and risk-takers rise up; a time when we’ve witnessed Glasgow’s underground be called on by Kanye and shy London teenagers step up to work with Drake. Not that a tick from hip hop royalty is the be all and end all – but, y’know, it’s a pretty fair indication that all ears are on these shores. Yet, for all the era-defining stardom of Hudson Mohawke and The xx, no-one’s quite influenced a younger generation of producers like Mount Kimbie.
If I had a quid for the number of times I’ve been sent a link with a note mentioning the influence of Mount Kimbie I’d be getting very drunk tonight. Not that it needs to be volunteered: browse through the pages of any even faintly electronic music minded website and they pop up time and time again; not them, but a producer who’s making music with their tonal understanding of longing and their chopped approach to time. I’d even go so far as to bet those metaphorical quids that James Blake would say that his time spent playing live with them before the release of his own records made an impression.
Since the release of their debut album ‘Crooks & Lovers’ – Dummy’s favourite album of 2010 – those influential hat-doffs and tour schedules were the most we’d heard of Mount Kimbie’s Kai Campos and Dom Maker until news of their signing to Warp last summer. So it was with some excitement that new song Made To Stray, in radio rip format from Ben UFO’s Rinse show below, was greeted this morning. So much so, I think I initially misheard the vocals – but now, a bunch more listens on, it’s clear that it’s both of them: Kai intoning softly in the foreground and Dom calling out to the horizon.
While in the past a vocal element was always that for Mount Kimbie – an element, a texture – here they sound out almost clearly. I can make out “shadows turn to grey / slave today” and then then later the titular “made to stray”, but the rest of it is a little clouded, possibly by the quality of the radio rip. But the point is: they are singing. This is a song – and a pop one at that. Mount Kimbie are a band who evolve through action, who had to entirely rebuild their album to be able to play it live and in doing so found their way to a completely new articulation of it. I saw them a whole lot of times in 2010 and 2011, and each time the songs had grown, until even their treasured early song Maybe had actual lyrics that you’d be hard pushed to discern on the recorded version.
That organic growth is key to Mount Kimbie, so it’s thrilling to hear it in living practice on Made To Stray. It has the DNA of Field, one of my favourites from ‘Crooks & Lovers’, running through it – an overcoming of a wall of noise with melody – but it takes that premise deep, deep underground. That bass pounds like a racing heart in the throat, that pitter-patter rattle creaks ominously and it all feels like the darkest corner of the night when there’s no distinction between the club’s walls and your skin for all are bathed in sweat, but then the light breaks through. Those Mount Kimbie chords – double-upped and at once warm/sad – indicate the shift and then it blooms. It’s Mount Kimbie but more so, a million miles from the watery imitations that followed them. They’ve got stronger, and bolder, and now they’re back. Rejoice.