Who – or what – is Mount Kimbie, really? “That’s a hard question,” muses Dom Maker. “The hardest. It’s…” “It’s hard to say,” chimes in Kai Campos. “It’s an unspoken thing.”
Unspoken, or barely even there at all? The duo’s first two EPs – Maybes and Sketch On Glass, both out in 2009 through Hotflush – seemed like explorations of spaces so private that all within earshot were turned instantly into voyeurs. The experience was less like listening to music and more like eavesdropping on the machinations of a lone mind – albeit a lone mind surrounded by and retreating from millions of other minds.
For these were releases ushered into existence in Elephant and Castle, south London – a place where, as Kai puts it, “you can get a bus to anywhere in the world”, but is still, ultimately, “the shittest place you could ever live”. You imagine the area doesn’t become any more endearing when you’re forced to sleep within the walls of an old mental asylum.
“That’s where we first met,” explains Kai, originally from Cornwall. “South Bank University turned the old asylum into student halls. The ceilings were still ridiculously high to stop patients hanging themselves, and there was a brick wall about an inch from the window so they couldn’t leap out.
“It was a cold, joyless, concrete building – the sort of building where you’d drop a pen and the sound would just go on and on in an echo.” Echoes are important to Mount Kimbie.
“We were rehearsing at Dom’s place in Brighton with James Blake once,” Kai explains, referring to their prodigiously talented friend and sometime live collaborator. “We went down to the beach to get drunk. We walked home singing through this 50 metre-long wind tunnel, and there was just this incredible reverb.
“A couple of months later we went back with some mics. It was a freezing evening – people kept coming down and there’s us, three weird guys in the middle of nowhere, singing harmonies in a wind tunnel! A lot of what we got that night features on the new album.”
Armed with found sound snips and a siege mentality, Kai and Dom set about turning London’s ambience into rhythm, its chaos into coherence. Traces of influence remain – the hard-earned spaces of Burial and The Bug vie with the berserk melodrama of Xiu Xiu and Grouper’s sad-eyed glow, D’Angelo’s pervert soul gets cleansed in the intimacy of Phil Elvrum’s Microphones, Angelo Badalamenti’s swollen ‘Twin Peaks’ atmospheres find a cradle in Madlib’s lax lope – but what emerges as ‘Mount Kimbie’ feels so pure in its of vision it’s surprising to learn its roots lead back to a trance club at the end of a pier in Bognor Regis.
“My first experience of electronic music was at sixth form,” explains Dom, who hails from the south coast holiday town. “All my friends would go to this club called Sheiks. They’d play the Tiësto rave mix of Barber’s ‘Adagio for Strings’, and I’d see girls I knew from school going in all tarted-up with their mums. It was fucking gross.”
It’s perhaps too easy to see the music Mount Kimbie make now as a retreat from both siren-strewn London mess and the rank, tyrannical mob empathy of Tiësto’s trance brain-sucks. What seems sure is that the sound of Mount Kimbie’s music reverberating around Sheiks’ main room come Friday night would blow many Bognor minds. This is music made in and for stranger, more private places: emerging from train journeys, “dimly lit garages full of hefty spiders” and the guest rooms of that old asylum, to exist… where, exactly?
In terms of attitude and approach, Mount Kimbie exist alongside those other auteurs in the vanguard of the post-dubstep diaspora – like Joy Orbison, Actress, Untold and Ikonika, Dom and Kai were drawn closer to UK clubland by the bass rearrangements seeping from nights like FWD> and DMZ. And like those other producers, their sound – their electronic response to the dubstep moment – is very much their own: sceneless; untethered from etiquette and genre codes. They float through dubstep and hip-hop, jazz, techno and ambient, post-rock, UK garage and film scores. But when the question comes to place Mount Kimbie’s music physically, we’re forced to return to that earlier question – who – or what – is Mount Kimbie, really? There are two minds at work here – if you were to scrawl a Venn diagram with Dom on one side and Kai on the other, ‘Mount Kimbie’ would be the overlap, a territory where their tastes and empathies interlock and resonate. Kai’s first year in London was “bleak” – he didn’t have any friends, and broke up with the girl he moved from Cornwall for. How important was it for the two of you to meet at that point?
“Crucial,” reckons Dom, immediately.
“We’re still feeding off the same things we were when we started,” surmises Kai. “Still responding to that first year or two in London, I guess.”
It’s an interesting statement – in Mount Kimbie’s emotionally murky and ambiguous mix you can hear all the sensations you’d expect such a “crucial” coming-together to provoke. Relief, first of all: then joy, curiosity, surging confidence and – as well as all that – the memories of the old search and its solitude. Agitated, evasive, enigmatic and wry, Maybes and Sketch On Glass seem like transmissions from that found place, the fluid, moving, living part of a city that gets trapped inside a human along with the artificial light and dirty air.
Every track on Mount Kimbie’s new album is unreleased and entirely new, yet it’d be strange to imagine them torn from that locale – this is, after all, the quietly momentous sound of their own memories.
“Most music that speaks to me is a mixture of different emotions and contradictions and that’s why it’s music,” reasons Kai. “That’s why music is important – it can convey those contradictions in a way you couldn't ‘say’ with words because it wouldn't make any sense. It gets to the core of being a human being. That’s what life’s like. A mixture of things.”
Following on from the release of his universally acclaimed debut EP With U in 2011, Holy Other is now ready to unveil his debut album Held, out August 28, 2012 via Tri Angle Records.
Working with the same blend of R&B, UK garage and house sounds that influenced the funereal pop sounds of With U, Holy Other found another significant influence during the making of Held in listening to and absorbing gregorian chant. This new found influence is most keenly felt in the monastic atmosphere that haunts sections of the album, as well as the ways in which holy other uses the voice in a way that sounds devotional and comforting in one instant, and unknowable and distant in another.
While it was never explicitly stated at the time of release, Holy Other opting to remain vague about the meaning behind the record, With U essentially chronicled the painful break down of a relationship. In comparison Held is about being confined to a relationship and the depth of emotions felt throughout its course. The muted euphoria of 'Tense Past' and the dramatic, brooding urgency of Love Some1, give way to sparser songs like 'U Now' and 'Inpouring' which sound like navigations through a foggy mind, culminating with the schizophrenic sensuality of the album's title track and closing with the melancholic poignancy of 'Nothing Here', a song which perhaps best sums up the record as a whole. Held is both a lament to the fragility of human bonds and the desire for them to be tighter and longer lasting. Where With U was fuelled by a desperate urge to 'feel something', Held is possessed by a more resigned feeling, concluding with the acceptance that some bonds ultimately yield nothing.
Space cruisin' teal pop driven by hypnotic kraut rhythms and shoegaze phantasms.
Vinyl Williams is a lifelong music & art project by Lionel Williams. Works include improvisations in Berlin w/ Machinedrum, Verity Susman of Electrelane, Jochen Arbeit of Einstuerzende Neubauten, with help of The Mindpirates. Exhibitions in LA, NY, Seoul, Berlin. Tours include USA and S. Korea.