By Paul McAleer
CALGARY – When computer software can replicate any sound and be as believable as Google’s new personal assistant, mimicking subtle nuances like “Oh’s” and “Ah’s,” it’s hard to decipher what is real and what is mechanical. With Mount Kimbie’s music, the weight and coarseness of real instruments are felt with every wobbly synth and ferociously strummed bassline.
Kai Campos and Dominic Maker formed Mount Kimbie in 2008, quickly establishing themselves as pioneers of the rapidly evolving electronic music scene. Often labelled as post-dubstep, the pair’s first two albums featured sample-heavy production with down-tempo beats — more befitting of a hazy club after dark than an EDM festival in the middle of the afternoon.
Mount Kimbie’s latest record, Love What Survives, marks a new direction in the duo’s discography, embracing live instrumentation at greater lengths than ever before. The push for analog instrumentation extends to both recorded material and live performances.
“It’s all sounds you can’t really emulate with software,” Maker notes. “Whereas before, we were using stuff that was very much software-based. Now that we’ve been writing with a lot more hardware, it’s good to have it with us [on the road].”
With all the new gear, Mount Kimbie needed to add some new faces to their ranks for live shows. In addition to drummer Marc Pell, the band enlisted keyboardist and vocalist Andrea Balency, who is featured on the track “You Look Certain (I’m Not So Sure).”
“It feels like a really good unit. We’re always trying to progress the live sound as much as we do with the recorded material,” says Maker. “It’s always about trying to figure out how to do things in a slightly different way and present it in the most powerful form possible.”
With songs like “Blue Train Lines,” featuring collaborator and friend King Krule on the recorded version, and the cannonball of a track “Delta,” crowds have formed mosh pits for the first time in Mount Kimbie’s career.
“When you hear some of these tracks live, they really seem to come to life in a different way,” remarks Maker. “We’ve had like a couple of mosh pits at our shows, which is fucking mad and that has never happened before.”
The instruments the band use on tour are very specific to the tracks on Love What Survives, so factoring in older material to the setlist was challenging.
“It’s weird, we’ve started playing ‘Maybes’ again, which is the first song we’ve ever made together and it’s just, I don’t know, it has sort of this weird feel to it where somehow it fits in with the more driving stuff from the latest album,” Maker says. “It’s a nostalgic change of pace. It’s just really fun figuring out how to do things, and we’re always trying to progress things.”
With Maker in L.A. and Campos in London, the two founders of Mount Kimbie live on opposite sides of the world now, but the distance has actually improved their workflow rather than hinder it.
Maker explains: “The main thing is that it’s focused the way that we work. Because obviously there’s a certain time limit on me being over in London or Kai being over in L.A., there’s a more focused approach. And you just get to sit with the music in different scenarios. Listening to where Kai’s at in his mind when I’m hearing it Los Angeles is a very different thing.”
The consistently hectic working environment of living in L.A. is also inspiring Maker to explore new ideas and keep his schedule full. While delivering on live performances is the first priority, touring together and with two other creative minds is also getting the gears turning for Mount Kimbie.
“Whenever we’re on tour, it’s always very focused on how we’re going to play things tonight. More recently, it makes me just want to write new stuff and keep creating basically. We’ve got a lot of time in soundchecks and stuff to play around with new ideas.”
However that creative energy manifests itself in the band’s future music, there’s no doubting the refreshing and human authenticity they carry in a digital age.
Mount Kimbie plays Commonwealth as part of Sled Island on June 20.Commonwealth, Mount Kimbie, Sled Island