U.K. duo Mount Kimbie constructs epic electronic jams that defy dance-music roots
Though Kai Campos and Dom Maker of U.K. duo Mount Kimbie are best classified as electronic artists, their meticulously crafted tunes treat that categorization as a mere jumping-off point for more adventurous sonic exploration. Undeniably rooted in dubstep, Mount Kimbie's early work, including the 2010 debut album "Crooks & Lovers," still felt like a more chilled-out version of that 140-beats-per-minute, bass-drop party music.
But Mount Kimbie's 2013 sophomore record, "Cold Spring Fault Less Youth," feels markedly more natural, replacing early field recordings with gently manipulated live instrumentation, a dance-all-night vibe with an ominous chill, straight-up instrumentals with stunning lyrical turns from Campos and guest star King Krule, and scrupulous perfection with a warm analog attitude. Folio Weekly chatted with Campos about sound, songwriting and space just before he and Maker jumped the pond for an extended U.S. tour.
Folio Weekly: Listening to the intricate soundscapes of "Cold Spring Fault Less Youth," it seems like they'd be hard to recreate live. Is that true?
Kai Campos: When we're making a record, we try not to think about how we're going to perform it live. In fact, the first record was quite a challenge to translate into the live setting. And we're still working on stuff from the new album, which we haven't really decided how we want to present. We're kind of making it up as we go along on this one, which is quite fun and hopefully adds a slight element of rawness to what we're doing. It's good that the record has enough life in it to keep changing.
F.W.: Reviews of "Cold Spring Fault Less Youth" commented on its raw, more organic feeling. Was that a conscious effort on your and Dom's part?
K.C.: We never said it in words, but we both knew that we wanted to do something less clinical — less focused on the finicky details. That came from the amount that we were playing live and the energy we were getting from that, which led us away from the micro-editing we'd done before. Also, we had a deeper interest in using analog equipment, which you can't always be in total control of. So yeah, I think it is a more natural record in that sense.
F.W.: How does the writing process work for Mount Kimbie?
K.C.: What interests me quite heavily is sound; that's what gets me excited about going into the studio in the first place. I enjoy the craft of songwriting, but sound sets the tone or the mood, and then we try and fit the songwriting around that. I guess that's why our stuff seems miniature in a sense — based around quiet noises. "Cold Spring Fault Less Youth" was also the first record with material that we had the opportunity to play live before it was recorded, which helped with the writing process.
F.W.: Are you and Dom able to write new music while touring?
K.C.: We've always struggled with that. But on our upcoming U.S. run, we're driving in a big bus with more bunks than we know what to do with, which should give us a bit more space and a lot more time to work.
F.W.: You've utilized field recordings a lot. What's the allure of those?
K.C.: With our earlier work, those kinds of found sounds were quite the catalyst. Without many resources in terms of equipment, it was a way for us to inject an analog element into a digital process — turning something with a certain unpredictability that wasn't necessarily musical into a natural human groove that was rhythmic or tonal.
F.W.: Do you think that kind of unconventional outlook is what allowed Mount Kimbie to shift the electronic music paradigm? Lots of young bands cite your work as inspiration.
K.C.: Firstly, it's very flattering and positive when somebody says that what you've done has been the catalyst for doing work. I didn't really think that would ever happen. But at the same time, we're not trying to fit in with a particular scene. Our first EP was wildly different than what [our record label] at the time was putting out — it was definitely influenced by dance music but also quite personal and one of the weirdest things we put out. It's important to trust that weirder side of your creative output. Nearly every time I've felt embarrassed to show somebody a piece of work, it's ended up being one of our better songs. It's so important for people to plow their own path.