The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Mount Kimbie
Crooks & Lovers Michael Dix , July 27th, 2010 14:18

If you're the type to believe the hype, you may well be wondering what has happened to the worldwide dubstep takeover that we were promised in so many of 2009's year-end wrap-ups. While club nights grow in popularity and the torrent of anthemic singles continues apace, the genre still fails to crack the pop charts on either side of the water, and although the likes of James Blake and Joy Orbison currently have the internet buzzing, the scene has yet to produce any genuine household-name superstars. Most importantly, in the half-decade since the term was coined, the genre has only thrown up one widely acknowledged "classic" album (in terms of critical and crossover appeal) in the shape of Burial's Untrue; much hyped long-players this year from Ikonika, Guido and Scuba - among others - have fallen short of the mark, leaving Hotflush's Mount Kimbie in the unenviable position of restoring our faith in dubstep as a viable long-term prospect.

On Crooks And Lovers, London/Brighton duo Dominic Maker and Kai Campos avoid a lot of the pitfalls that have blighted albums by so many of their peers. For one thing, it's not too long; with eleven tracks over and done with in little over half an hour, there is simply no room for wasted space. Rhythms are often built from the ground up, with instrumentation, cut-up vocal samples and effects layered on gradually, providing a refreshing alternative to the suffocating repetition usually churned out by the group's peers. Then there is the palette of sounds that MK paint from; rather than just the usual P-funk synth squelch, Maker and Campos incorporate jazzy organs, guitars and all manner of weird and wonderful extras (the abused harpsichord in the intro to 'Before I Move Off' recalls Aphex Twin's queasy ambient interludes; is that a bicycle bell looped on 'Ruby'?). And while others are content to stick with the stereotypical fat, wobbly bass that probably comes as a ready-made "dubstep" preset on most keyboards nowadays, Crooks' bottom end is more textural, hollow and haunting, much like the sound Burial trademarked a few years back.

Rhythmically, these guys are more than just one-dimensional two-steppers, changing between tempos and beat patterns with nods to hip-hop, glitchy minimalism and even arena rock. In this respect, its closer in spirit to the year's other great electronic long-players from Four Tet, Flying Lotus and Actress than more dancefloor-orientated producers like Untold or Pangaea, an album ideally suited to headphone or in-car listening that draws from a number of wells and, as such, never runs dry. Crooks is not a perfect album, nor will it ever be considered as culturally significant as Untrue, but it is a consistently interesting and engaging listen, and for that alone it deserves your time and attention.