Here’s a review I wrote for Electronic Sound… I’ve been thinking a lot about how always-on streaming consumption impacts on perceptions of music in terms of historical and socio-cultural significance. How do we understand music when text is stripped from the context of its original production and then placed into the continually ‘present’ internet. I kind of get into some of these ideas here… (read it in the iPad magazine here Electronic Sound)
MOUNT KIMBIE – Cold Spring Fault Less Youth (Warp)
Post-dubstep ghost-soul from the immediate edge of collapsed history
Welcome to a quite revolution. An electronic music sea change, which has been gaining momentum in the years since dub step went stadium sized. A moment of musical evolution that finds history collapsing into a perfect, but quiet storm.
Mount Kimbie is at the forefront of this quite revolution. Contemporaries include Cholombian, Joy Orbison, Sangam and Morgan Hislop. They’re inspired as much by Drake and Alt J as Benga and Bon Iver – but reimagined through a James Blake mixtape. They call themselves post-dubstep, but they owe as much to 2-step garage and alternative hip hop as ambient soul and minimal electronica – but reconstructed through the twisted filters of Massive Attack.
Cold Spring Fault Less Youth represents the coming of age of this quiet revolution which is to dubstep what ambient was to techno and what artcore was to drum & bass. It’s the sum collective of the slow building energy coalesced into one beautiful album.
Don’t be fooled by the post-dubstep moniker though. Its relation to dubstep is more through the use of understatement and space. It also relates to the personal history of Kai Campos and Dom Maker, aka the Mount Kimbie duo’s initial emergence into the experimental 2-step arena of revolutionaries like Kode9. The use of the ‘post’ prefix in post-dubstep suggests they’re following immediately on from something. But this is where Mount Kimbie and their ilk represent a very interesting moment in time, in that they come at a point where music consumption has separated sound from its cultural past and is gorged on in the immediate present. It’s a period of history collapsing rather than history repeating.
This idea of history collapsing isn’t new. It’s been attributed to the end of Communism in 1989, the year in which the UK partied while the rest of the world seemed to hell bent on changing the fabric of their very lives. It’s an idea that’s been linked to the post modernists of sampladelica where all of music’s history was ripe for the art of plunderphonics. But there is a difference here. Where previous sonic collaging was built around an ironic reverence for historical significance, Mount Kimbie and their friends are a part of a generation that has entirely grown up being able to access all music online, immediately, and removed from any historical markers. Significance is irrelevant.
So imagine the impact of hearing Bowie’s ‘Warzawa’ without the baggage of visuals and significance, but just as music. Or what if you accessed New Order’s ‘ICB’ without the Saville imagery and the Curtis history and just heard the sounds? What if your entire musical education was through the immediacy of sounds downloaded or streamed. No album artwork, no biographical detail, no hype or intrigue, no canon, no inferred meaning – just music, for the love and desire for music. Welcome to the quiet revolution.
Cold Spring Fault Less Youth is post-history then. It wields its influences without any sense of irony or hidden meaning. It is entirely from the ‘what you see is what you get’ now-ness of Internet consumption. It’s sense of its own historical significance is limited to the short period of its own existence. It’s a child at the centre of its own perception of everything. And it’s as deep and wide as the Internet’s digital ocean.
Opener ‘Home Recording’ fuses church organ and sax with rolling beats and the restrained sound of soulful vocals with the showboating riffs and flips removed. It’s a trick that’s repeated on ‘Blood and Form’, which feels like jazz funk dragged backwards through the brutal circuits of lo-fi glitch. This tortured soul ambience features again through ‘Break Well’, which builds around a series of muted arpeggios and somnambulist sequences before erupting into post-punk flow of picked guitar and upfront, driving bass. ‘So Many Times, So many Ways’ performs a similar trick, downloading the spirit of 1979 through 2013’s filters. The four to the floor kick and jittering, 2-syep beats of ‘Made to Stray’ most closely resembles their debut album Crooks and Lovers, until another ghost-soul vocal performance reveals new depths. Standouts ‘You Took Your Time’ and ‘Meter, Pale, Tone’ feature guest vocals from King Krul which ache with a combination of disillusion and anger to minimal backdrops.
To talk about historical influence doesn’t do this album justice. To talk about its own future resonance does. Cold Spring Fault Less Youth is the sound of immediacy in an avalanche of filtered information. It’s the sound of the here and now disappearing into the recent past. And it might just be one of the finest albums to have emerged that is fully inspired, informed and expressed via the experiential culture of the Internet.