The Upshot: It’s a gorgeous, unreal place that the indie rockers evoke on Love What Survives, but dissonance leaks in through the crevices.
BY JENNIFER KELLY
Mount Kimbie layers shimmery pale washes of electronic tones over one another, creating soft, wavery atmospheres that are punctured, like as not, by the rougher tones of organic instruments – a bass line buzzing up from the underpinnings, the dry crack of snare piercing the twos and fours, a church organ on full-bore vibrato wheedling into the spaces between verses. It’s a transportingly pretty aesthetic, rather dreamy but full of good feeling, but it lands most resoundingly when there’s a contrast, a friction, a bit of difficulty woven into the mix. On Love What Survives, the third full-length from the London duo Dominic Maker and Kai Campos, the sting in the sweet comes most often from the guest vocals, particularly King Krule, but also Micachu and James Blake.
King Krule’s “Blue Train Lines” is the album’s clear highlight, the music bubbling with jittery drum-beat anticipation and ebullient surges of synthetic tone. Krule’s voice is a necessary corrective, spitting gnarled strings of frictive lyrics, landing hard on the downbeats, dragging out yawning cockney vowels that end without a punctuating consonant. He’s delivery drips with sarcasm against a backing of pure euphoria. Yet at the chorus, he turns wounded, romantic and downright lyrical, admitting ruefully that “yeah might have seen it all” with the kind of vulnerability that only a tough guy can muster.
“Marilyn (feat. Micachu)” is completely different but likewise very strong, incorporating a gamelan-ish tonal percussion into its mesh of drum rhythm, synth tones and a dreamy rumble of running bass. This almost-melodic percussion becomes a recurring motif in Love What Survives, recurring in Konono 1-ish “SP12 Beat” and the sing-song-y cadences of “You Look Certain (I’m Not So Sure)”, the track with the angelic French-Mexican artist Andrea Balency on vocals. Yet it works most intoxicatingly on the cut with Micachu, here poised somewhere between punk playfulness and cinematic atmospherics as she slips in and out of a softly variegated mix, breathing, “I’m looking at you/are you looking at me?”
Mount Kimbie invited long-time collaborator James Blake in for a couple of tracks, and his fluting tenor turns single “We Go Home Together” into a stunning evocation of romantic longing. Here the musical backing is quiet, a shake of tambourine, looped bit of laughter that becomes a rhythmic element and that tremulous drone of organ. Over all this, Blake’s voice flutters effortlessly, asserting “And it’s the best it could have been…we go home together,” high and fragile and emotionally charged.
The non-guested tracks can be very fine as well, particularly the opener “Four Years and One Day,” which builds quivering, oscillating masses of tone, in which every note is shadowed by a dopple-ganger and melodies shimmer like reflections on wind-ruffled water. Yet even here, a rougher, more unpredictable element bursts through in drum beats that rise from the distance and moving toward the center and bass guitar, very scratchy and real, that pounds through gauzy layers of tone and hiss. It’s a gorgeous, unreal place that Mount Kimbie evokes on Love What Survives, but dissonance leaks in through the crevices.
DOWNLOAD: “Blue Train Lines (Feat. King Krule),” “Marilyn (Feat. Micachu)”