Mount Kimbie Present a Bright Pivot on The Sunset Violent

Expanding from a duo to a four-piece, the left-field electronic veterans pull off sonic and structural changes in a seamless way.

Music Reviews Mount Kimbie
Mount Kimbie Present a Bright Pivot on The Sunset Violent

Mount Kimbie emerged from a tasteful corner of the late 2000s London scene, quickly finding their footing thanks to a chic, fluid formula. Looking back on the duo’s early output offers a glimpse at a moment when scrappy indie rockers and oblique DJs were bubbling up in tandem, their wide-ranging sounds united by a cohesive aural gloom. On their first two records, Crooks & Lovers and Cold Spring Fault Less Youth, Mount Kimbie melded future garage, dubstep and post-punk to fizzy ends. Later, on 2017’s Love What Survives, the band explored a murky strain of krautrock. They haven’t quite soared to the commercial heights attained by peers like James Blake and Jamie XX, but the imprint that founders Dominic Maker and Kai Campos have had on the left-field electronic landscape is unignorable.

Over the last few years, Maker and Campos have continued to make music together. But they have gone down pretty different paths in their individual creative pursuits. Until a recent move back to London, Maker was working out of Los Angeles, where he pulled strings behind the scenes for musicians like Arlo Parks. Meanwhile, Campos gigs heavily as a techno DJ in a moody corner of the European club circuit. Mount Kimbie’s last album, 2022’s MK 3.5: Die Cuts / City Planning, leaned into the pair’s increasingly disparate identities. The record collected solo tracks from each member, for a double LP that found Maker claiming the A-side and Campos’s contributions occupying the back half. It displayed the former’s knack for approachable songwriting, and the latter’s nimble touch as a dance producer.

The Sunset Violent—Mount Kimbie’s new album for legendary electronic label Warp Records—finds them further embracing development. The former two-piece has expanded into a quartet that includes French-Mexican keyboardist Andrea Balency-Béarn and London-based drummer Marc Pell. While one might understandably assume that the addition of two fairly arty musicians would find Mount Kimbie moving in an experimental direction, the music that surrounds the lineup’s evolution is structured and welcoming. The dreamy record calls to mind ‘90s bands like Broadcast, Stereolab, and Slowdive—another surprising detour from an act that clearly thrives subverting expectations.

The Sunset Violent came to life over the course of a month, in a remote corner of the California desert. This bright setting yielded an album that contrasts Mount Kimbie’s historically grayscale palette. “Shipwreck” is something of an ‘80s party throwback, blunt guitars and filtered vocals resting atop a disco groove. “A Figure In The Surf” embodies its coastal title, centered on a wooly, propulsive instrumental that lingers in a potpourri-scented cloud. “Yukka” is the most accessible cut on the record, Balency-Béarn’s wordless intonations capturing the energy of an aimless, youthful summer. “Dumb Guitar” is driven by upward-gazing synths and blanket-like guitar chords, but is about a couple’s failing attempt to salvage a relationship. “Every day we’re eating out / Another date I’ll kill myself / Wake me up next time you’re round / Wake me up next summer, man,” Balency-Béarn sings chipperly, on a deceptively cynical chorus.

Things on the album never get as nocturnal as Mount Kimbie’s past work, but a handful of moments on The Sunset Violent harken the band’s darker roots. “Got Me” casually flirts with grime, a half-time, piano heavy beat topped with a lackadaisical, droning voice. Enduring Mount Kimbie collaborator Archy Marshall (aka King Krule) appears on two tracks here. “Coffins fill my bed / I’m watching Day of the Dead / I’m sleeping with you in mind / I’m weeping with you by my side,” Marshall sings over a shoegaze haze on the opening lines of “Boxing.” Closer “Empty and Silent” finds Marshall reading excerpts from his personal diary over a featherweight, yet motorik arrangement. His contributions to the album are more affable than one might expect, given Marshall’s notably dour brand. His subtle attitude improvement helps pinpoint the greater vibrance that colors The Sunset Violent.

On these nine songs, Mount Kimbie pulls off sonic and structural changes in a seamless way. “I think everyone’s kind of doing the same thing, really—music sounds different because you’ve got different reference points, different upbringings, you’re coming from different directions and different places, but essentially when you speak to people about what we’re all doing, everyone understands what you’re doing is kind of similar,” Campos told Tone Glow in a recent interview, reflecting on the nature of collaboration across genres. This open spirit carries onto The Sunset Violent. Almost two decades into their career, Mount Kimbie sounds more carefree than ever before.

Listen to Mount Kimbie’s Daytrotter session from 2011 here.

Ted Davis is a culture writer, editor and musician from Northern Virginia, currently based in Los Angeles. He is the Music Editor for Merry-Go-Round Magazine. On top of Paste, his work has appeared in Pitchfork, FLOOD Magazine, Aquarium Drunkard, The Alternative, Post-Trash, and a slew of other podcasts, local blogs and zines. You can find Ted on Twitter at @tddvsss.

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