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Review: As Mount Kimbie has gone indie, its more straightforward sound still holds its surprises

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About two songs into their sold out show at Lincoln Hall on Saturday night, Mount Kimbie mentioned a set the group played at the Metro 12 years ago. During that show, they were opening for celebrated electronic musician Squarepusher and touring between their 2010 debut, “Crooks & Lovers,” and their 2013 record, “Cold Spring Fault Less Youth.”

Back then, the British band popularized the emerging post-dubstep sound of the early 2010s, which incorporated elements of U.K. garage, two-step, R&B and ambient music. For a generation of millennials steeped in underground electronic music, their sound was fresh and challenging. Since those early years, the group (Dominic Maker and Kai Campos) has expanded its sound and wound up in an unlikely, well-known genre: indie rock. And this sound was on clear display during their Lincoln Hall show.

For one, the group, which previously operated as a duo, now expanded to a full-fledged band with live drums, bass, guitars and new band members (Andrea Balency-Béarn and Marc Pell). Their earlier music, which often used chopped and rearranged vocals, has been replaced with more straightforward songs that use lyrics and choruses. For a music listener not familiar with their latest work, 2024’s “The Sunset Violent,” this may have been a shock. A band once known for weird, unique and head bobbing tunes is making music in one of the most straightforward genres. And yet, there’s something quite interesting about what Mount Kimbie is doing and how they are doing it.

Watching their live show demonstrated how the group has woven a connected thread between their sounds of the past and their auditory ambitions of the present. There’s always been a spindly quality to their music. One often wonders how they made their tracks. Watching them perform older tracks such as “Carbonated” from “Crooks & Lovers” or “Marilyn” from 2017 album “Love What Survives” highlighted the inherent instrumentation and orchestration of music that may have sounded so mechanical on past records.

  • Andrea Balency-Béarn of Mount Kimbie at Lincoln Hall, on Saturday,...

    Andrea Balency-Béarn of Mount Kimbie at Lincoln Hall, on Saturday, May 25, 2024, in Chicago. (Vincent D. Johnson/for the Chicago Tribune)

  • Andrea Balency-Béarn, center, of Mount Kimbie at Lincoln Hall on...

    Andrea Balency-Béarn, center, of Mount Kimbie at Lincoln Hall on May 25, 2024, in Chicago. (Vincent D. Johnson/for the Chicago Tribune)

  • Dominic Maker, on the microphone during the Mount Kimbie show...

    Dominic Maker, on the microphone during the Mount Kimbie show at Lincoln Hall on May 25, 2024, in Chicago. (Vincent D. Johnson/for the Chicago Tribune)

  • Mount Kimbie performs at Lincoln Hall on May 25, 2024,...

    Mount Kimbie performs at Lincoln Hall on May 25, 2024, in Chicago. (Vincent D. Johnson/for the Chicago Tribune)

  • Dominic Maker of Mount Kimbie performs at Lincoln Hall, on...

    Dominic Maker of Mount Kimbie performs at Lincoln Hall, on Saturday, May 25, 2024, in Chicago. (Vincent D. Johnson/for the Chicago Tribune)

  • Members of Mount Kimbie let their music be the show...

    Members of Mount Kimbie let their music be the show as all the stage lighting was from behind them at Lincoln Hall on May 25, 2024, in Chicago. (Vincent D. Johnson/for the Chicago Tribune)

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And, perhaps more importantly, there is a real and true sonic heft in the construction of electronic music. We’re not just talking about propulsive bass or earth-shattering beats for the dance floor. Mount Kimbie makes piercing music to rattle one’s nerves, in the best possible way.

Overall, I was most struck by the group’s performance of some of their latest tracks on “The Sunset Violent.” The nine-track record, released in April, is, surprisingly, a collection of post-punk tracks for the new millennium. The show began with album opener “The Trail,” an abrasive yet catchy track featuring layers of guitar reverb and Balency-Béarn on vocals. It was an urgent, dynamic kickoff.

Even songs like “Shipwreck” and “A Figure in the Surf,” which sound more clean and almost new-wave on the album, were jolted with a feverish energy that made the tracks pop live. This is a band that has thought long and hard about how they want to sound and who they want to be. And what they want to be is a band that rocks out.

I particularly loved the performance of “Fishbrain,” which felt very “Warm Leatherette” in its live construction. This was felt, too, during their encore, when the group ended with “Made to Stray,” a “Cold Spring Fault Less Youth,” single they transformed into a stark, blistering wonder from its original dance floor roots. With this, they are saying they’re not afraid to move forward, to try something different, to shock their oldest and most beloved fans. And overall, it worked.

Britt Julious is a freelance critic.

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Britt Julious , 2024-05-26 19:54:16

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