In 2010, Mount Kimbie established themselves as world-class electronic tinkerers with Crooks & Lovers, their debut full-length. A shambolic yet highly efficient fusion of bass, indie rock, R&B and more experimental fare, the album didn't sound like much else, which helped it strike a chord across different music scenes. The easy-going feel of Kai Campos and Dominic Maker's early releases was a big part of what made them so appealing, but the deft compositional sense that underpinned it was what made the sound work. Crooks & Lovers was a mess—but meticulously so.
Cold Spring Fault Less Youth, Mount Kimbie's follow-up, mostly maintains its predecessor's nonchalance. You sense something new at work beneath the surface, though. Where the tracks on Crooks & Lovers seemed held together by duct tape and chewing gum, their Warp debut achieves wholeness through more conventional studio finesse, which at first can make it feel less exciting. If you came for another high-wire act, Cold Spring Fault Less Youth might not hold your attention.
That said, in a way the more slickly engineered compositions suit Mount Kimbie quite well. Cold Spring has some unexpected and deeply appealing moments of musical clarity, such as on "Break Well," when an extended passage of murky ambience breaks apart in its final minute to reveal a wholly un-electronic guitar groove. Rather than smash these seemingly incompatible textures together, Mount Kimbie let them complement each other from opposite ends of the song. The prickly beat and cooing keyboards on "Made To Stray" make for an odder coupling, but the tension this creates testifies to a newfound musicality in the group's sound. When Cold Spring is at its best, you don't really miss the danger of their earlier work.
But you sense Mount Kimbie are still finding their way with that musicality. Two of the album's best songs, "You Took Your Time" and "Meter, Pale, Tone," are unfortunately sullied by the presence of King Krule, a gravelly vocalist too timid to be rapping and too melodically bland to be singing. He doesn't live within the music so much as walk all over it, smudging the finer points and obscuring its craft. And some of the group's own vocal lines, like the overstuffed one on opener "Home Recording," feel rhythmically and melodically clumsy. Occasionally, the music itself doesn't quite live up to its own potential. On "So Many Times, So Many Ways," Mount Kimbie flirt with jammy indie rock, while "Blood And Form" shaves its groove down into something overly simplistic and plunking. So while Cold Spring is in many ways a massive leap forward for Mount Kimbie, it's also the sort of transitional album you might expect from a group with a knockout debut. Mount Kimbie have got some growing to do, but there's every reason to think they'll get there.