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Mount Kimbie embrace the wilderness on The Sunset Violent

"The Sunset Violent"

Release date: 05 April 2024
Mount Kimbie The Sunset Violent cover
05 April 2024, 06:00 Written by Joshua Mills

Mount Kimbie hit the desert for their fourth studio album, and it shows.

The result is a sun baked return to nature of a record, with their usual electronics taking an increasing backseat in favour of driving indie.

Make no mistake though, this is a journey into the weird. Mount Kimbie camped up in California’s Yucca Valley to record. The locale is known for its Desert Christ Park, a tourist attraction comprising bleached Biblical figures overlooking the town, and a history of UFO sightings. All this makes for a spooky set up, setting off with the appropriately named opener “The Trail”. It’s an abrasive start, with warning sirens of feedback and scraping guitars. Once the beat finds its motorik footing, though, we’re full steam ahead into the unknown, with Andrea Balency-Béarn’s piled up, choral vocals somewhere between the spiritual and the extraterrestrial.

With its selection of winding tracks and mantra-like moments, The Sunset Violent hints towards a higher level of consciousness that one might venture into the desert to attain. Second single “Dumb Guitar” begins with oblique, deadpan vocals delivered as a round; the tune becomes busier and fuzzier until finally finding peace for the coda. “All I’ve ever wanted / is something of my own / I guess I’ll never find it out at sea,” Balency-Béarn sings as waves of synths wash over her harmonies.

The sparkling “Got Me” is more beguiling still. The record’s prettiest and most tranquil effort, it conjures nighttime at the campsite after a long trek through nature. Keys twinkle like stars, the sparse vocals manipulated into a weary sigh. It’s a great combination of chilly top line and warm bass, the throbbing low end wrapping you up in a hug like a sleeping bag beneath the night sky.

As the album wears on, things get stranger and sparser. “Fishbrain” approaches stripped back shoegaze, the first 90 seconds or so mesmerising with two blown out guitar chords beneath gnomic spoken word passages. When they add a third chord at last, the song opens up, a flower unfurling. Mount Kimbie pare it down even further melodically speaking on highlight “Yukka Tree”. It’s built around one riff, a pair of arpeggios, with everything else piled on top, the drums moving in step, a keyboard blaring away at a counter melody. Balency-Béarn’s vocals are buried ever deeper as the melancholic composition overwhelms itself.

There’s an ocean in this desert, though, in the form of closer “Empty And Silent”, one of two tracks to feature frequent collaborator King Krule. It’s hands down the best cut on The Sunset Violent, an appropriately dramatic way to see out the LP. Archy Marshall’s baritone voice usually gives off an ultra-modern sneer; here he’s recast in a 70s AM radio mould, adding a slick sheen to proceedings. There are shades of prime Yo La Tengo to this fantastic rolling conclusion. Even as the guitars become choppy and discordant, Marshall and the unflinching beat keep on trucking.

If it doesn’t quite hit the consistent highs of 2017’s Love What Survives, The Sunset Violent is a clear next step for Mount Kimbie. With limited features and a cohesive throughline, they’ve never felt so much of a unit, embarking on a trip together.

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