The term dubstep is becoming increasingly, wonderfully nebulous, just the right side of meaningless. From Burial to Eleven Tigers and now Mount Kimbie, it seems to function as an ignition switch to embark on vast-ranging explorations into an imaginary, post-nightclub world, in which nostalgia and future horizons loom equally large. What is "dubstep"? Who, in a sense, cares? In this instance, it's Crooks & Lovers, the first album proper by the duo Dominic Maker and Kai Campos, the latest in a long line of similarly unassuming-looking young dudes to get together to create improbably fabulous alchemy in electronica.
Crooks & Lovers is an album of abrupt changes and paradoxes, at once organic and heavily processed, drowsy and yet with moments of eyes-on-stalks urgency, acoustically sweet and electrically charged. It's akin to gently drifting in and out of consciousness on a bus trip, only to be sporadically jolted back into consciousness.
Tunnelvision, the opener, floats down from some odd, hazy place, reminiscent of soon-to-be-revived oceanic 80s rockers A.R. Kane, a mix of short, acoustic riffs, disembodied voices and an adjacent rhythm shuffling by like a caterpillar. Would Know follows, swaddled in grainy bromide, borrowing the Daft Punk opening-the-door-to-the-nightclub effect. Before I Move Off and Carbonated exhibit Mount Kimbie's duality in full, double-vision effect, the latter juxtaposing effervescent pop balm with a dramatic, dub swell. Adriatic, blissful and lapping, is a sweet interlude, the briefest of holiday postcards, while Ruby, with its shimmering, apocalyptic horizon is most noticeably in some sort of neo-Burial, dubstep tradition. But then follows the beguiling, puzzling Field, whose lengthy, faded-in intro features the alien, thrumming sound of a rhythmic device hitherto unknown to man systematically chomping away at everything in its path, before being abruptly supplanted by to a bucolic mid-section more reminiscent of the likes of Bibio.
Unmoored and out there, Mount Kimbie come across in interviews as a little startled themselves by what they've come up with, and continue to come up with, but that's all to the good. They've no idea where they're going. Go with them.
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