If 2010 is the year that the "dubstep" full-length articulated just how multicolored and ever-shifting the sonic terrain within the outdated tag has become, then it's arguably Paul Rose's Hotflush Recordings that's been at the forefront of the showcase. Along with excellent full-lengths by Ikonika, Guido and Actress on notable heavies like Steve Goodman's Hyperdub, Peverelist's Punch Drunk Records and Honest Jon's, Rose's own release as Scuba, Triangulation, was perhaps the genre's most nimble narrative to date, a sinuous blend of techno, dubstep and ambient as coherent as it was expansive. Now, just four months after that watershed release, Hotflush issues the heavily anticipated debut album of London duo Mount Kimbie, Crooks & Lovers.
Following the footing laid on Maybes and Sketch on Glass, and remixes for bands like the Big Pink, The xx and Foals, Crooks & Lovers finds Mount Kimbie further disentangling their music from the genre's sterner, cellar-deep signifiers. As on both Triangulation and especially Actress' Splazsh, dubstep is unraveled and reassembled from its brawny rhythms upward, connecting the dots between musique concrete, R&B, hip-hop, drone and the midnight gospel sounds of Burial. And clocking in at thirty-six minutes, with most tracks limited to around four minutes, its brevity facilitates repeat visits.
Though the record makes efficient use of space and ambient hush, Mount Kimbie's always moving toward the middle. In effect, they make brainy, ethereal dance cuts with pop's sense of hook and timing. But their sonic breadth allows them at various moments to recall producers as far-ranging as Scratch Perry, J Dilla or The Books. If it's not as deconstructed a stance as Actress'—Crooks & Lovers certainly owes far more to trad dubstep than does Splaszh—then its embrace is more immediate. The diced-up R&B of "Would Know," for example, transfixes—rushes of cloudy sound and dizzy samples drifting past its dubby rhythms—while the blocky beat, zingy 8-bit touches and soulful samples of "Before I Move Off" distort its cleaner, indie-inspired guitars. Below its wobbly sub-bass, "Blind Night Errand" becomes increasingly unhinged, accelerating into rapid jangles of noise and disorienting vocal clips. Elsewhere, the gorgeous "Carbonated" is hazier, hotter, with an almost Balearic melody winding through vocal spatters pitched to stutter and ripples of static.
But it's on two tracks near the record's close where Mount Kimbie reveals just how many balls they can keep in the air on one track. "Field" begins with trancey pulses of synth and noise a la The Field before detouring into a post-rock guitar bridge and closing with a bewitching melody, the sound of machines whistling. With its spacey vocal clips, glow-stick synths, and another twinkling AM gold melody, "Mayor" inhabits a crossbreed space as indebted to lush deep house as it is to more muscular UK bass sounds. Like the album itself, it's a recombination that seems always graceful and fluid, one that melds rather than collides.
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Tracklist: Mount Kimbie - Crooks & Lovers 01. Tunnelvision
02. Would Know
03. Before I Move Off
04. Blind Night Errand
08. Ode to Bear
11. Between Time
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