James Blake & Mount Kimbie @ WHP 26-11-11

By Jack Drummond & Stephen Sumner

There is a tendency in the music writing world to quickly jump at the chance of pigeonholing acts into genres which they’ve neither associated themselves with or, in many cases, even heard of.

‘Post-Dubstep’ is one such label. Applied to the headline and supporting acts of Warehouse Project’s 22nd stint of the season on Saturday night, James Blake and Mount Kimbie would be similarly hard pressed to quantify what exactly anyone means by the term. Nevertheless, both acts are seen as the radical forefathers of it, leading a shift in modern dance that encompasses hip-hop, soul, post-rock, and dub electronica. Some call it UK Bass. Whatever that means.

But pigeonholing aside, the quiet, self-effacing Blake’s set is the only one we’ve seen that can successfully carry off a soulful jazz-fusion breakdown in the middle of a dance club (thanks to the Klavierwerke EP’s stand-out track I Only Know (What I Know), all while keeping the crowd hooked to his every chord. Such is the intensity of his esteem and fandom.

However, it is for a live collaboration with long time friends and associate artists Mount Kimbie that he firsts graces the stage. Mount Kimbie, a duo arguably responsible for the ‘post-dubstep’ umbrella term and who came to prominence with their seminal debut of 2010 Crooks and Lovers, perform a tightly coiled set. The sound, a processed, electronic wall, still has its roots in traditional, physical instruments like drums and guitars; all of which left us marveling at the flexibility of those instruments, the effects that can be squeezed out of them and their dexterity as musicians. It’s what makes the duo stand out from other dubstep bands.

Perhaps that what it means to be ‘post-dubstep’? Can you see how this is a pointless exercise?

The crowd seems to love it either way and it immediately becomes obvious, as the first sharp clicks of their samples and notes of synthesised chords echo across the WHP’s central chamber, that nobody cares about genres any more. The intensity of Blind Night Errand’s throbbing bass is matched only by the pulsating, jumping wave of the moving audience. Arms and heads are held aloft and the sweat and the heat begins to gather in the rafters.

Thanking the audience, they call for their extra band member, claiming that some of their songs ‘wouldn’t have been done without him’.

They refer of course to Blake and Mount Kimbie’s stunning Maybes debut EP, which was remixed by James and includes samples of, amongst many other things, skateboards landing tricks on concrete and bird song.

Blake’s music diverts from this system entirely. With a voice that wouldn’t seem out of place in a worthy modern day soul or jazz quartet, his acapella sections alone would be unheard of in dubstep. That such a sound could thrive in a nightclub environment is testament to his popularity. It was a good two minutes from the start of I Never Learnt to Share before the beat kicked in, a test for the patience of anyone wanting to throb with the pulse. But what a reward when the beat arrives: (that over-used word) euphoria.

From being in an insouciant, sing-along mood, there is a sudden, intense focus as the crowd is caught up in the moment, making the most of the collective enlightenment that only a song with such earnest lyricism can create. Not that he leaves them wanting – it’s only through quiet contemplation that they can appreciate the heights that are reached.

That said, Limit to Your Love was played with an interlude so long our minds wandered so far that we forgot Blake and his two accompanying musicians were still playing it. Maybe there is such a concept as too much of a good thing? Limit to Your Love was Blake’s breakthrough track, a minimalist re-imagining of Feist’s original, and a tough act to follow. Wanting to make the most of the crowd’s appreciation of his most recognisable song, it was dragged out for a good 15 minutes and as a consequence the concentration waned.

The rest of the night took a strange turn. After the intensity of all that ‘post-dubstep’, the punters were taken into the hours by an eclectic mix of songs, from electro and drum and bass to, erm, Sussudio. A bearded Kaiser Wilhelm-look-a-like (oh wait, no, its Andrew Weatherall!) took to the decks for the final push to six AM. However, it will be a cold day in hell before any of us dance to Phil Collins.  

Not even on a Sunday morning, thanks.


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