The last time UK electronic duo Mount Kimbie dropped an album, back in summer 2013, King Krule (Aka Archy Marshall) was the only guest vocalist featured, appearing on two of Cold Spring Fault Less Youth’s best tracks. While Kimbie remained relatively silent in the ensuing four years-- save for a stellar remix of a Kelis song-- Marshall’s leveled up substantially from his early days of bluesy, core-scraped-out indie rock, first toying around with blue jazz on 6 Feet Beneath the Moon, then with moody alt-rap on 2015’s excellent A New Place 2 Drown. He builds on all of that on the newly released “Blue Train Lines.”
Mount Kimbie supply an 8-bit-accented buildup here, something much grittier and more post-punk than anything on their previous album, which eventually opens up into a buzzing, motorik climax that allows catharsis to come full circle. It would be a thrilling instrumental track on its own, but what (or rather, who) elevates this from good to great is Marshall.
It’s difficult to tell exactly what Marshall is talking about on “Blue Train Lines,” and perhaps even more difficult to tell whether he’s talking, rapping, singing, or yelling the lyrics. His delivery used to garner frequent comparisons to Billy Bragg, but it’s off in its own world at this point. If vocal timbre, meter, and tone were as crucial to comprehension as vocabulary and pronunciation, we’d be talking about Marshall as the creator of an entirely new language.
These two songs are very different, one decidedly in electro-punk territory and the other in the mid-’90s techno arena, but the only comparison that comes to mind when listening to “Blue Train Lines” is Underworld’s 1996 classic “Born Slippy .NUXX.” It’s in the quasi-rapping, the intelligible-but-opaque lyrics, the sheer urgency that drives us from beatless beginnings to breakneck-paced conclusions. “Blue Train Lines” probably won’t be featured in any climatic Danny Boyle scenes any time soon, but it is a bit of a shame that it was released too late to be considered for the T2 Trainspotting soundtrack.
“Blue Train Lines” will be included on Mount Kimbie’s just-announced album Love What Survives, which is due out September 8th on Warp.