Mount Kimbie

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.”

Before joining the Stones Throw family, Wayne already had a recording system nailed down: he used to drag a synthesizer, his 404 and some turntables into the bathroom and set up shop: the “synthesizer sits on top of pulled-out drawers, 404 goes on one side of the sink and a turntable goes on the other side.” Any extra gear ended up on stacks of books. Wayne would sit in the bathroom composing tracks and beats, his eight-track resting on a trash can beside him, escaping to his bedroom when he needed inspiration for his rap lyrics. It was in the bathroom that he produced what later became his Alpha Pup debut, Bowser, a collection of sample-free beats blending the Warp Records’ distinct brand of IDM with video game-influenced melodies. Deeper, darker instrumentals followed with his sophomore album The Death of Andrew, released on Alpha Pup late last year, along with several essential, self-released mixtapes.

The success of Bowser allowed Wayne to graduate from his commode. He now works out of the Stones Throw headquarters in Highland Park, in a studio he helped build with Peanut Butter Wolf and close friend/collaborator Jonti, a fellow Stones Throw signee. At last, Jonwayne finally ended up where he was always meant to be: right next to the ever-elusive, always-brilliant producer Madlib, on the roster of one of the most innovative hip-hop labels in the world.

In the hands of producer Djavan Santos, a.k.a. D33J, what should be computer-quantized or staid is given light and life. Aquatic textures overlap with bedroom clicks, muffled vocals & vacuous guitar to form hazy late night jams with just enough rhythm for a syrup-drenched dancefloor. Colors change over the course of a song — cool blues melt to hearthy reds — and melodies wind their way through shifting textures while new forms are created at every turn. Though D33J is a solo sound technician, his sound is variegated. It is lush and large and it is alive.

Of course, the 22-year-old’s pedigree demands as much. Los Angeles born and bred, D33J attended the city’s prestigious yet public Hamilton High alongside Anticon’s Baths, OFWGKTA’s Syd the Kid, the FIDLAR boys, and Friends of Friends bit-bender Groundislava. While there, he studied both guitar and electronic music, and caught friends’ shows after-hours when he wasn’t experimenting with software at home.

When D33J moved north to study experimental audio and visual design at the San Francisco Art Institute, he was initiated into the WEDIDIT mafia (via Shlohmo, Ryan Hemsworth, RL Grime), with whom he nurtured a strongly weirdo cult lifestyle and further developed his unique approach to crafting instrument-infused, R&B-touched bedroom techno.

D33J recently returned to L.A. to claim his rightful place among the city’s vital noise-makers. While he continues to seed the Wedidit BlogSpot with bold R3MIX3S — see clutch reinventions of Brandy, Sigur Rós, and Drake — Anticon is giving his Tide Songs EP the debut it deserves. The five tracks contained therein offer an inventive, brightly budding intro to an artist who’s only just begun to blow the eff up himself.

$14.00 - $16.00

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Mount Kimbie with Jonwayne, D33J

Monday, September 23 · 8:00 PM at Echoplex