Mount Kimbie – Tickets – The Sinclair – Cambridge, MA – June 11th, 2017
Ash Koosha, Tirzah
Sun, June 11, 2017
Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 8:45 pmThe Sinclair
This event is 18 and over
The Sinclair is general admission standing room only. Tickets available at AXS.COM, or by phone at 855-482-2090. No service charge on tickets purchased in person at The Sinclair Box office Wednesdays-Saturdays 12-7PM. Please note: box office is cash only.http://www.sinclaircambridge.com/event/1461512/
Campos was raised in Cornwall, Maker in Brighton. The pair met in halls of residence while studying at London’s Southbank University and bonded over a newfound passion for electronic music - specifically the burgeoning dubstep sound. “We weren’t particularly trying to break into any kind of scene or anything like that,” says Campos. “We were just making music that we didn’t even think was that weird at the time, but when you look back on it now...” Mount Kimbie drew on their thick soup of influences to make a hybrid music that was intimate in scale but far from lacking in ambition. Back then they were oddities; nowadays the approach they pioneered is practically the norm.
The first evidence of the impact Mount Kimbie would have came with the Maybes EP, released on then-dubstep label Hotflush in 2009. The title track was a dazzling statement of intent - a melancholic anthem of sorts, combining a delicate garage shuffle with gaseous vapour trails of guitar and fragmented vocal melodies. It was swiftly followed by the more colourful Sketch On Glass EP, and within the space of a few months Campos and Maker found themselves at the forefront of a new wave of bedroom producers radically re-interpreting the dubstep template. “In the early stages of Mount Kimbie everything happened very fast,” Maker recalls. “I remember the first show we ever did - actually getting paid money to play in this church in Oslo. It was a really bizarre feeling, almost like we’d cheated the system.”
The pair kept a level head though, and, around an increasingly busy touring schedule, began to work on a debut album. Released the following year, Crooks & Lovers was not only the summation of Mount Kimbie’s career so far, but helped kick-start the so-called “post-dubstep” scene that would soon coalesce around them. The record consolidated the band’s signature sound - fragmented guitar licks, stumbling garage-inflected percussion, fractured vocals - and topped a slew of “best of 2010” lists in the process. In broadening and deepening their sound to meet the requirements of the album format, the duo also trailblazed a route from the dance underground to wider acclaim - a route that many have followed since.
“In that situation you’re flattered that people are paying attention to you,” Campos says of the significant impact Crooks & Lovers had at the time. “So naturally you think, ‘I’m doing something right here,’ and gravitate towards doing similar things. But at some point you’ve got to take a step back and say, ‘This is no longer what I want to do.’” Perhaps it was this need - to work out precisely what they wanted to do - that explains the duo’s absence from release schedules in the past two years. Certainly, with their second album, Cold Spring Fault Less Youth, finally completed, what Mount Kimbie “are” seems to have grown: they are more experienced, more mature, more self-aware. “Two years is a long time,” says Maker. “Tastes change, what you want out of your life changes, and so on. Naturally, how we want to sound has changed too.”
Fans will have noticed this change manifest itself in aspects of the band’s live performances. In recent years the duo have gradually migrated from playing in clubs to frequenting gig venues and festivals, and the addition of a drummer to their guitar, keys and percussion live setup makes the new Mount Kimbie feel considerably more like a band - in the traditional sense of the word. “I’m still really interested in [dance music],” maintains Campos. “It’s just that in some ways - for what we do - that world became quite limiting. The more traditional kind of presentation is much better for us, even if that means we’re playing at 9pm and the crowd aren’t on pills.”
This mirrors a widening focus for the band. Where the soundworld of Crooks & Lovers was largely electronic, with fragmented guitar and vocal lines hinting at a human touch, their new material sees the duo embracing live instrumentation alongside a reinvigorated enthusiasm for electronics. In a sense, 2013 is the year that Mount Kimbie cease to be simply producers, becoming instead composers, performers, arrangers - in short, taking the reins of a project that’s more fully realised than ever before. Cold Spring Fault Less Youth shot through with warm organ chords and earthy live drums, feels looser, richer, and more enveloping than the duo’s past work. More significantly, vocals have a new prominence, functioning as the central protagonist in songs that move beyond dancefloor convention to explore forms which are definitely ambitious, but still feel like 2009’s Mount Kimbie. Cold Spring Fault Less Youth’s musical language evokes larger spaces, grander emotions.
Perhaps this is a natural progression for a band who are no longer new kids on the block, having embraced popular music in a manner similar to James Blake - a long-standing musical ally who was a member of the band for early live shows. Now entering their fifth year of success, the duo are aware that the rules of engagement have changed. “Things have gone as well as they could’ve gone for us so far, in terms of being a small band and finding an audience,” says Campos. “Certainly a bigger audience than we expected. But just because of the nature of our culture, people get very excited about new acts - and we’re not exactly new any more.”
Not new, perhaps, but arguably more exciting and relevant than ever. “Since the first record came out we’ve been learning to be better artists really,” say Campos. Cold Spring Fault Less Youth is proof, if it were needed, that that journey hasn’t been in vain.
Born Ashkan Kooshanejad, Ash split his early years between Tehran and Frankfurt, where his father worked in the printing industry. The Iran of his early years was, he says, in a "destructive" phase, where music in particular was hard to come by, but his parents made the most of their time in Germany to stock up with cassettes of everything from early Genesis to Japanese classical music. Moving back to Iran in the 90s, he secretly watched MTV by night and bought smuggled cassettes and copies of Rolling Stone on the black market.
As the nineties progressed and regulations relaxed a little, Koosha both started making "noises" on his Commodore 64 computer and, enamoured of the music of Jack White, learnt to play guitar, bass and drums. As the internet was introduced and deregulated, he was hit by a flood of music without being given clear guidance about how it fitted together, so that he made his own connections and found his own synchronicities.
Reading a piece on the MIT blog about microtones and granular synthesis was, he says, like finding "a calling." He dropped out of school and, in 2004, began studying composition at the Tehran Conservatory of Music, a satellite of the Moscow Conservatory, meaning that he learnt as much about Tchaikovsky as the Persian classical tradition. The only student working predominantly with computers, he devoted a lot of his energy to studying the physics of sound and acoustics, as well as participating in hours of jamming with the other musicians there.
In parallel, his love of rock music saw him join the band Font as bass player. Playing heavy rock, the band would perform underground gigs to only fifteen or so people. Any more than that risked catching the attention of the Ministry of Culture and the problems that would entail. Koosha learnt exactly what those risks were in 2007. Having been asked to play at a UNICEF related cultural event at the Kings Palace, the government proceeded to cancel it at the last minute, instead Font put on the gig in the Tehran suburbs, which was raided by commando's abseiling in from helicopters. Everyone was arrested, including Font, and Koosha spent three weeks in jail.
On his release—and with Font now in effect shut down—Koosha formed Take It Easy Hospital, a new indie/electronic/pop band, with friend Negar Shaghaghi. They built up a big following on myspace and, off the back of that, were invited to play the In The City Festival in Manchester. The Kurdish-Iranian film director, Bahnman Ghobadi, got in touch around the same time, asking them to collaborate with him on a film about the Iranian underground music scene.
The film, No One Knows About Persian Cats, loosely based on their own experiences, won the Un Certain Regard Special Jury Prize at Cannes in 2009. But Iran was entering another "destructive" phase, with a new crack-down on music. The band's drummer was arrested and beaten, and the Iranian-American co-writer of the film, Roxana Saberi, was charged with espionage and sentenced to eight-years in prison. Kooshanejad and Shaghaghi were in the UK playing further dates and decided they had no choice but to stay, seeking asylum.
From 2010 onward — making a living providing soundtracks to Iranian films, commissioned and delivered over the internet—Koosha threw himself into his own experiments in electronic sound. Living in London, he went into musical hiding, often vanishing for two or three weeks at a time while he wrestled with a variety of problems in sound. He perhaps retreated even further into himself and his own music after the terrible events of November 2013, when three members of the Tehran band Yellow Dogs — who had also been featured in No one Knows About Persian Cats — were shot dead in Brooklyn by another Iranian exile.
The "nano-compositions" he created in this period were based on "the sonic behaviour of fractal patterns that exist within a stretched or rescaled sound wave but without pitch alteration." More importantly, they sounded amazing and when he began to put them on soundcloud and an obscure Japanese blog, they were championed by Antony Fantano of The Needle Drop, leading to a deal with NY DIY label Olde English Spelling Bee. The resulting album, Guud, didn't even have a press release but went on to be included in FACT's Albums of the Year, with Koosha also being interviewed by Pitchfork and featured by the Guardian.
Now, with I AKA I, Koosha has taken his musical experiments a step further still. Fascinated for many years by his own synaesthesia (the ability to 'see' sound), Koosha has tried to systematise this ability by treating sound "like a physical matter which can be broken down, liquified, rescaled or spatially positioned." The results are nothing less than stunning. The album, he says "is about transformations in psychology and technological advancements – the result is always the same humans in the end."
In addition, filming is complete on his first feature film, Fermata, which features Colin Firth's son, Will Firth, as well Ash's old friend from Take It Easy Holiday, Negar Shaghaghi, who also co-wrote, plus she's the artist behind the incredible "I AKA I" artwork. Keeping things in the family, the film was shot by his brother. Beyond this, Koosha's interests remain varied. He heads up the software company KOIZ and is creating possibly the world's first virtual reality album. I AKA I will be shown in 2016 using Oculus Rift headsets ahead of their projected mass marketing. The suspicion remains that he has barely got started…
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