Mount Kimbie – MK 3.5: Die Cuts | City Planning
In September, UK electronic and alternative music duo Mount Kimbie shook the status quo with the release of their EP, MK 3.5: In Your Eyes & A Deities Encore | Q & Quartz. Kai Campos and Dom Maker challenged the boundaries of what it means to release music as a group, with the EP consisting of four individually produced tracks, two from each of them respectively. Released under the Mount Kimbie name, the EP would spark a conversation around the notions of collaboration, and push our understanding of ‘band’ ever closer toward ‘brand.’ Their latest album is an expansion of this approach, split into two distinct halves: Maker and Campos. That we expected to regard these halves as a cohesive whole is a stretch at best, MK 3.5: Die Cuts | City Planning is essentially two albums released as one, gargantuan whole.
The choice to go in this particular direction makes sense. Maker and Campos are essentially two very different artists, and this project gives credence to each of their respective interests. For Maker, these lie in the slow burning grooves of acid jazz and downtempo hip-hop, while Campos finds himself enamoured with austere and dancefloor ready techno. Maker’s Die Cuts occupies the album’s first thirteen tracks, a collaboration heavy exploration into bluesy, lo-fi hip-hop. a deities encore persists as one of the strongest in Maker’s group, though similar takes on this sort of soft spoken R&B abound. say that works as a simple looped phrase, with vocalist Nomi’s stunning performance lifting the otherwise barebones track. tender hearts meet the sky aims for Tirzah style juxtaposition, but Maker’s production leaves keiyaa little to play with and at times, the whole thing sounds at odds with each other. These syrupy moments are balanced by trap laden rap tracks like kissing featuring slowthai, and more abstract collages like end of the road that play out like a radio switching stations at random moments. The sound of an iPhone alarm going off is both startling and intriguing at the top of heat on, lips on, which proves a standout in Maker’s section and also the most creatively ambitious he gets here.
Taking inspiration from cartography and the grids of the city, Campos’s City Planning is awash with ambient industrial sounds and minimal techno beats. Much of his section is designed to bleed into one another, like the Satellite songs which surge from arpeggio laden house, to bounce informed city pop, to sparse drone ambience. There’s some promising moments where Campos rips into the techno rulebook, such as the hydraulic and tightly wound Wingback or the industrial noise-leaning Transit Map (Flattened). But there’s a sense of disconnect between material and concept, and it’s difficult not to compare Campos’s thesis here to similar work such as Terrence Dixon’s Reporting From Detroit. Despite sourcing his inspiration from the lines and architecture of maps, Campos’s city isn’t easy to navigate. It’s sprawling, with the producer often colouring outside the lines rather than adhering to their geometry. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it makes for a headier listen than perhaps anticipated, which reveals this project’s greatest flaw.
While Mount Kimbie’s subversion of collaboration worked in short EP format, as a full album it buckles under the weight of itself. There’s just too much here to take in, creating much space and dissonance between Maker and Campos so that both sections feel like oil and water. According to the album description, “The two sides complement each other through their contrasts. But in other ways they’re not so different.” While this may have been true of MK 3.5: In Your Eyes & A Deities Encore | Q & Quartz, this album puts too much distance between Mount Kimbie’s two halves for it to make sense as a cohesive body of work. Understandably, both Maker and Campos appear quite keen to share their individual interests here, but it comes at the detriment of the album as a whole. With some astute editing, the whole thing has the potential to work. But in its current form, MK 3.5: Die Cuts | City Planning locates the cardinal points of Mount Kimbie too far apart for us to understand how they form a whole.
Listen to heat on, lips on by Dom Maker from MK 3.5: Die Cuts | City Planning below.
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