Monday, June 3, 2013

New Mount Kimbie

Mount Kimbie released Cold Spring Fault Less Youth and Hyetal released Modern Worship (or if they haven't, they're going to, they've leaked), & they're both artists who released first a string of great singles, then instrumental albums (Crooks and Lovers and Broadcast respectively) in that weird post-dubstep continuum where the artists can't really be categorized because they have different goals and reference points and yet you've gotta group 'em because otherwise how the hell are you going to organize all this crazy shit that's coming out all the time, album after album, much of it very good, some of it even great (as the first Mount Kimbie album was, and we'll see abt these others in time), it's downright confusing. It's a time of artists, not movements, and as soon as a genre is named (footwork, future garage, synthwave &c.) it either dies down to boring formulas surely even the producers don't care about or splits to a million different impulses, hybridizing with everything it touches (so that for instance one half of Sepalcure, another of these post-dubstep guys, in this case from Canada, is also Machinedrum, an idiosyncratic footwork producer whose album Room(s) got a fair bit of deserved hype), or sometimes even doing both.

What's interesting here is that Mount Kimbie and Hyetal have both added vocals to their tracks on their 2nd albums, & that in both cases roughly the same thing happens--that is, we don't get songs (no boring verse-chorus-bridge, none of those godawful "hooks" some "musicians" insist on writing) and we don't get the typical "Dance Track feat. Diva Vocalist" b*llsh*t either (not that I have anything against House, but c'mon, it's 2013). Often the vocals are just completely unintelligible, and the singing not particularly competent (not just that the singer clearly hasn't taken lessons but also that they're not mic'd properly & so on).

Of course Mount Kimbie have done this a bit before, notably on "William," where you have these vague vocals for the song's middle section, which fades onto a peaceful instrumental beat, so that the vocals seem not so much a centerpiece as an interlude, a kind of textural digression. "Digression" really being the word for the vocals on the new album. The vocals don't guide the songs, but they aren't "just another instrument"--they become a particular sonic event. Here you should also notice that there's a lot more guitar in this album. Why? Because Mount Kimbie is injecting "humanity" into its album, fusing their laptop dabbling (the new sound of garage rock, really: it's a lot easier/cheaper to get together around a MacBook than find a practice space, and a lot easier in say an urban environment like, oh, London) with the more conservative electric guitar noodling that a million amateurs are doing in their shabby home studios. The first track is called "Home Recording."

This all adds up to an album which is really self-conscious, in a provocative way, about its  means of production. Because this is part of the reason post-dubstep is so idiosyncratic, and why the other electronic music genres developing lately are: the producers are isolated. They're doing this at home, by themselves, with one or two collaborators or none at all. A lot of producers try to efface this fact, some escape it entirely (e.g. James Blake, with Mount Kimbie the defining post-dubstep artist, used to tour with them even, has embraced r&b, which is a sound all about going into a studio, hiring session musicians, and so on; only, he's on his own, so he plays all the parts himself, with lackluster results mostly). What makes Mount Kimbie exciting, besides that they have all the skills necessary for making great electronic music (mastery of texture, rhythm, pacing) is that they're upfront about how their music is made. It's not amateur music pretending to be professional music, it's amateur music which takes that amateur status as the basis for its existence. It's the same trick Burial pulled off, in a different direction--the sound of Burial is basically the sound of a person hearing pirate radio broadcasts & fuzzy cassette mixtapes & imagining the rest of the sound from there, hence his use of rain noise (which replicates both radio static and his own environment when hearing the stuff), video game samples, and so on. Mount Kimbie use white noise as well, but it's the environmental white noise any amateur musician recognizes from using a cheap mic in a room w/out soundproofing.
So that's what I dig abt the new Mount Kimbie, and wut makes it more exciting, I'd say, than a million slick dance albums by producers who've mastered sidechaining (or for that matter robot-headed producers who inspired the whole sidechaining thing, & most of the others soundz of EDM, but have now retreated to late-70s/early-80s excess & retreading disco tropes that were much more lively the first time).

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