When discussing Mount Kimbie’s influence in an interview with Pitchfork Media, Kai Campo said of that “most of the music that sounds like it’s been influenced by [Crooks & Lovers] that has come out since sounds fairly dull, and it’s not something we want to carry on doing. We want to get away from it.” This is as much an indictment of Mount Kimbie’s debut album as it is of the album’s blurred resonance among the London electronica set. Because Crooks & Lovers was so quietly seminal, and so relentlessly re-serviced by other acts, Mount Kimbie are now steering clear of its bleeping, sparkling electronica – even if in trying to reimagine themselves as the bold new frontline of British alt rock, they’ve made many of the same aesthetic moves as their peers. Cold Spring Fault Less Youth is a renegotiation of sorts: not just of Mount Kimbie’s sound, but of the way electronic music is presented. Though this renegotiation relies on mostly old terms, Cold Spring Fault Less Youth is so meticulously composed that every moment resonates with the musical history from which it borrows.
Rather than dwell in any one obvious space, Cold Spring Fault Less Youth smartly cherry picks from a kaleidoscope of early analog warmth all the while selling the album as modern electronica – not sorrowful neo-soul, not digital R&B – something Mount Kimbie’s peers have had trouble with. Of King Krule’s contributions, it could be said that the young singer comes across as a thuggish and maleficent force, but one that has been reduced to a dopey mess by a lover’s slight. “You Took Your Time” is a little too straightforward R&B for Mount Kimbie’s own good, Krule’s creamy post-chalance and some very creative keyboard deviations from the song’s main theme aside. “Meter, Pale, Tone” is the more energetic and vocally alacritous of the album’s two Krule collaborations, and the faux-jungle guitar track is a lot more of a rock song than Mount Kimbie would have had any right producing in 2011.
Cold Spring Fault Less Youth is within the border’s of England’s obsession with blending the funniest aspects of retro soul into modern dub, even if it does push them outward by a margin. This album has all the gummy, sleazy sophistication that was forcibly restrained on London group Vondelpark’s 2013 album Seabed. Vondelpark masticated their Americana and soul into watery musings very much in the British tradition (fairly tempered, restrained, and often factory-bleak), whereas Mount Kimbie pay homage to its influences’ goofier tendencies. “Home Recording” starts off the album with a wonky callback to elevator jazz so enmeshed with 21st century recording and sampling techniques – not to mention its Depeche Mode vocals – that a cheesy piece of organ muzak manages to sound vicious and new. Someone like James Blake may be a vessel from which R&B can be spilled over Portishead-style electronica, but Mount Kimbie are truly meticulous historians. They dive past impressive vocals and loud brass and get to the weird quantum mechanisms that made R&B so captivating in the first place.
Cold Spring Fault Less Youth isn’t without its big misses: “Blood and Form” – though charming – sells its experimentation short, while “Slow” is an unfortunate dancehall masturbation, made all the less impressive by this album’s proximity to Random Access Memories. Mount Kimbie are clearly still unlearning some old tricks that could soon become crutches, though the flash of this album’s attack has fortuitously obscured many of their less impressive discotheque leanings. It is perhaps the case that Cold Spring Fault Less Youth, like so many follow ups, is less nouveau than its predecessor, has less of what made the original so galvanizing – it is certainly the case that many of the steps Mount Kimbie have taken are in the direction of pop and soul, and are not necessarily unsurprising ones. But it is an act of incredible faith and determined momentum, for Mount Kimbie to jump from Crooks & Lovers to this. Not a perfect leap, but perhaps a perfect landing.