May be the dullest record to emerge in 2017.
Mount Kimbie’s Love What Survives may be the dullest record to emerge in 2017. In that way, it’s not entirely unwelcome considering that these are tumultuous times full of conflict, upset and emotional disarray. But given that music has a role to play in either offering something which echoes the time and the things we’re feeling or allowing us some escapism, one has to wonder where Kai Campos and Dom Maker have been hanging out. There is nothing going on here; this is the late night grocery parking lot of records.
The UK is the birthplace of an incredible legacy of electronic music, not the least of which is the fairly recent phenomenon of dubstep. The often dark and sometimes mellow musical form built sparse melodies using little more than rolling bass, sinister sawtooth and syncopated percussion. Mount Kimbie came up in this scene, but whatever this record is, it has nothing to do with dubstep outside of being similarly electronic in foundation. The album is a train wreck of ideas born out of new wave, goth, pop and electronica, but it doesn’t serve any of those genres’ goals.
Love What Survives opens well enough on “Four Years and One Day,” a pretty mediocre instrumental which draws influence from goth and new wave music. It’s basically sociopathic in its cold lack of emotion. The wavering synth lines eventually build to a crescendo over some elementary post-punk drumming. That same drumming shows up throughout the record where one might hope to find the reprieve of a sampled break or an innovative loop of some kind. Instead, we find nods to retro goth and new wave, but Mount Kimbie seem to have forgotten the very thing that made those genres so special—melody and passion.
One of the most interesting “so bad, he’s good” artists to emerge in recent years, featured guest King Krule has no business on this record. His own style needs a deft hand to balance out his angry Brit hip-hop influence and working-class lyricism, but on “Blue Train Lines” Mount Kimbie just beds his faltering delivery on minimal keys and chords which appear too late and at all the wrong times. King Krule is doing all the work here; the rest is a meaningless cacophony of off-key, warbling organs. Despite appearances by several other artists, including Micachu on “Marilyn” and James Blake on “We Go Home Together,” these tracks are as devoid of life as a yawning black hole.
Warp Records has made a name for itself as the champion of all things weird, and that’s a wonderful thing. It’s brought us Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Nightmares on Wax and Chris Cunningham’s “Rubber Johnny.” In each of those cases, we’re greeted with electronic music that pushes envelopes and offers a challenge. Mount Kimbie’s Love What Survives just leaves a bland aftertaste. “You Look Certain (I’m Not So Sure)” sounds like it was directly pulled from the B-side of a little known ‘90s riot grrrl band. Vaguely referencing Lush, this song comes off more like a less dorky (and consequently less interesting) Shonen Knife.
Mellow music makes sense. Ambient music takes you places and shows you things or rolls in a fog which can inspire enriching thoughts. This album has none of that, it just provides track after track of producers idling and noodling their way through things they find interesting but that probably don’t belong on a record. There is nothing here that demands to be listened to more than once.