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Love What Survives is the third studio album from Mount Kimbie. It is a melodic yet robust electronic record for driving with the windows down and a distillation of their career to date, mixing multiple singing voices and musical personalities, flirting with freeform experimentation, pop tropes and an expansive sonic palette.As the title suggests the record is the product of three years of intense creative development, continually honed by the duo writing and rewriting their ideas to form something wholly idiosyncratic and personal. It brings together the voices of their close friends and collaborators – who together represent a corner of the UK’s young artistic talent – James Blake, Micachu and King Krule, within the immersive, unique atmosphere of a Mount Kimbie album. It’s the most confident statement of intent from the boundary-pushing duo yet, and an embodiment of their career-long musical progression.
Making this album, says Kai Campos – who along with Dominic Maker is Mount Kimbie – “was about taking away everything that had been successful for us before.” Love What Survives was made mostly on just two vintage synths, a Korg MS-20, and a Korg Delta. Both instruments have what Kai describes a “punk and janky, Robert Wyatt quality”. With an industrial character and a direct playing style, these synths pushed Mount Kimbie toward their bold new sound.The record’s more expansive aura is also indebted to the fact it was made between London and Los Angeles. After Maker moved to the West Coast in 2016 the duo would travel back and forth to work together, cultivating ideas in intensive sessions.
For Maker, putting down roots in a foreign city with its cultural differences and geographical vastness was alienating at first but it gave fresh perspective and inspiration, disrupting some creative stagnation he was starting to feel from living in the UK. “I found it really helpful”, Maker says now.As a result of this free-form composition process and their extensive live performances over the last few years, Love What Survives is a looser, more ambitious record than Mount Kimbie have ever made before. Elastic melodies and rough-edged instrumentation give it a warm energy: the pre-Midi groove of ‘Delta’ locking with simple, direct chord progressions; ‘Poison’ showing a delicate, introspective side; ‘Audition’ suggesting a Krautrock influence, with “drum machines that sound like they were played by humans and acoustic instruments that sound like they were played by machines.
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Barely two years after he began tinkering with Ableton Live Lite after school, Cuco has found a young and passionate audience for his music, which combines earnest Spanglish love lyrics with an inscrutable deep-meme millennial sense of humor to create a persona that is at once carefree and emotionally involved — the way teenagers are. His brand of dream pop takes cues from jazz and hip-hop, combining homemade drum packs and loops with self-taught keyboard, trumpet, guitar and his sing-talking cadence to create twinkly lullabies. His most popular track, “Lo Que Siento,” is the kind of song you sing along to with your friends in a McDonald’s drive-through at the end of a night out. His 2016 single “Amor De Siempre” has the earnestness of your 7-year-old sobrino coaxed into singing karaoke.
Cuco’s first viral moment was a slide guitar cover of Santo & Johnny’s “Sleepwalk,” an anonymous 30-second clip of which blew up on Twitter. Traces of that dreamy instrumental can be found in the original song “Lover Is a Day,” which also took off online. In February 2017, then-23-year-old Doris Muñoz approached Cuco at a house show in Commerce, weaving through a crowded patio of almost 200 girls chanting that song’s lyrics. The next day, over agua fresca at a bar in Highland Park, she proposed managing a skeptical Cuco, saying, “I just don’t want some old white dude to come through and Ritchie Valens you.”That spring, the team rolled out “Lo Que Siento,” which by the end of the summer had gained Cuco nearly 350,000 monthly listeners on Spotify according to Muñoz. After a year of slacking off at Santa Monica City College, he dropped out to pursue music full-time. Today “Lo Que Siento” has over 12 million combined streams on Spotify and Soundcloud. Its creator, meanwhile, has earned heartthrob status with Chicano teenagers across the country, if the thousands of adoring Instagram comments are any indication. Lyrics like “Oye cariño, sólo pienso en ti” only fuel what Doris calls a Menudo effect.