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Mount Kimbie’s MK 3.5: Die Cuts | City Planning suffers from its incoherent mood and tone

"MK 3.5: Die Cuts | City Planning"

Release date: 04 November 2022
Mount Kimbie - MK 3 5 Die Cuts City Planning - Album Artwork
04 November 2022, 13:30 Written by Greg Hyde

Mount Kimbie’s fourth album, MK 3.5: Die Cuts | City Planning, features some undeniably affecting vocals, but it has an inconsistent mood and is tinnily produced.

Kai Campos and Dom Maker, aka Mount Kimbie, formed in Peckham in 2008. In 2010, they released their debut album, Crooks & Lovers, to widespread critical acclaim, signing to Warp Records shortly afterwards. Their fourth album, MK 3.5: Die Cuts | City Planning, packs 23 tracks into 59 minutes. The first disc, Die Cuts, contains 12 songs featuring a variety of samples and guest vocalists. The second disc, City Planning, consists of 11 instrumentals.

Die Cuts opens with “DVD”, a song featuring wistful piano bars and falsetto vocals from Choker, which contrast starkly with the aggressive rapping provided by slowthai on “In Your Eyes”, the song that follows it. The contrast has a jarring, rather than an attention-grabbing, effect. It establishes the album’s tonal unevenness well. The abrasiveness of slowthai’s gritty rapping about sex on subsequent track “Kissing” also sits uneasily alongside the mawkishness of Nomi’s softly sung vocals about making her significant other a “star” on “Say That”, which follows it.

There are some things to like about Die Cuts, however. The vocals from frequent collaborator James Blake are incredibly haunting on the Mahalia Jackson-sampling “Somehow She’s Still Here,” but the song is marred by a weak production job. A vivid production style would also have greatly improved songs like “If and When”. That being said, Liv.e contributes soulful vocals to “A Deities Encore”, making the song an effective finale to Die Cuts.

The Campos-produced City Planning features more of the upbeat post-dubstep with which Mount Kimbie made their name on Crooks & Lovers. However, it too suffers from odd juxtapositions of tracks with vastly differing tempos and atmospheres. Thumping instrumentals such as “Quartz”, “Zone 1 (24 Hours)”, and “Zone 2 (Last Connection)” sit uncomfortably alongside introspective-sounding ones such as “Satellite 9” and “Satellite 6”. “Human Voices” closes the album on a somewhat underwhelming note, its plodding rhythm fading in and then fading out again undramatically after little over a minute.

MK 3.5: Die Cuts | City Planning features some enjoyable moments, mainly on the Maker-produced Die Cuts, but they are few and far between and are let down by poor, watery recording quality and sound strange next to the radically atmospherically different tracks that precede and follow them. City Planning should appeal to fans of Mount Kimbie’s early material and Die Cuts boasts some alluring vocal melodies, but ultimately, there is an awful lot of filler here. The album could perhaps have benefitted from the duo setting stricter standards at the track selection stage.

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