MK 3.5: Die Cuts City Planning

MK 3.5: Die Cuts  City Planning

“Initially this was just about us collecting some of the things we’d been working on individually outside of the band,” explains Dom Maker, one half of Mount Kimbie. “Then over the course of trying to collate it all, we thought, ‘Hang on, we might have two albums here.’” For their fourth album, MK 3.5: Die Cuts City Planning, the London-formed duo has taken an entirely new approach. With the pair already split between the US and the UK (Maker is now based in LA, Kai Campos is in London), the complexities of the pandemic ensured the duo spent more time working on music apart than together. Maker crafted rap- and R&B-flavored beats, collaborating with the likes of Danny Brown, slowthai, and James Blake, while Campos became increasingly inspired by DJ-ing and Detroit techno of the late ’90s and early 2000s. The result is two contrasting yet complementary solo albums. One, Die Cuts, is a collaboration-heavy and slowly enveloping blend of honeyed rap, R&B, and electronica. The other, City Planning, is an off-kilter, techno-led journey into the gritty heart of an imaginary city and back. Here, the pair talk us through some of the key tracks from MK 3.5: Die Cuts City Planning. “Dvd” (feat. Choker) Dom Maker: “I did a session with a producer called Michael Uzowuru who’s worked with everyone from Beyoncé to Frank Ocean to Earl Sweatshirt, and he brought Choker along. I wasn’t familiar with his music, but he makes what you might term experimental pop. Michael took away one of the ideas I worked on that day and recorded Choker’s vocals over it. Then Duval Timothy sent over a voice memo of a session he had done with Sampha where they were just noodling around on the piano and we sampled that and added it in as another melodic switch in the middle. It sets the tone for the album perfectly.” “In Your Eyes” (feat. slowthai & Danny Brown) DM: “slowthai was in LA finishing off his second album TYRON and we made ‘Feel Away’ for that with James [Blake], and then in the afternoon after that, he laid down the verse for this track. He actually laid it down on an old beat which I later replaced, which is quite common on this album. I originally used a sample of ‘In Your Eyes’ by the American jazz singer Blossom Dearie, but we couldn’t clear it, sadly. Getting slowthai and Danny Brown together is such a dream link-up. The track begins like a thunderstorm with Thai’s verse, and it’s a bit dark and ominous. Then the clouds clear in the mid-section and the beat changes up and the Danny verse at the end brings in this different flavor.” “Heat On, Lips On” DM: “This is one of the only tracks on the album I made without a collaborator. It’s made up of two separate beats that I made using some sounds from a free sample website. The samples came from a jazz-style song. Then I found Hollie Poetry, who’s a street poet, and I took one of her poetry readings, chopped out each word, and built my own sentences with it. It’s less vocal-led than the rest of the album, and as much as I love working with all of the collaborators on the album, I like that this one’s truly my expression.” “Say That” (feat. Nomi) DM: “This is a love ballad, I suppose, and probably my favourite song on the album. Nomi’s an amazing unknown vocalist based in Houston, Texas, and this is the first song she’s ever put out. There’s a soul sample in there, but then I also sampled some ASMR [autonomous sensory meridian response—a tingling sensation sometimes triggered by hearing soft or whispered speech] of a girl saying things like ‘I love you’ and whispering sweet nothings in your ear, and there’s a sample of a crackling fire really low in the mix there too.” “If and When” (feat. Wiki) DM: “Wiki’s one of my favorite rappers, and he actually toured with us for a while. I immediately wanted him involved in this album, and initially he recorded this whole track on another beat I made and sent it over to me. Then I spent a long time reworking the beat. I got my friend Chris Trowbridge to play bass on it. I love what Wiki’s saying on the track. It’s all about his torment with trying to be healthier, which I can relate to.” “Q” Kai Campos: “‘Q’ establishes the world of the record very well. I was attracted to gear which had been used on a lot of the late-’90s Detroit techno and electro, and the Roland TR-606, which is prominent on this track and a lot of the album, is a classic drum machine from that era. It’s quite metallic and has a futuristic vibe to it. I wanted the start of the record to be earthy and rugged, and this does that perfectly.” “Transit Map (Flattened)” KC: “‘Transit Map’ is a collaboration with Andrea Balency-Béarn, who’s a key part of our live setup and an amazing composer for film and TV in her own right. She wrote this long piano improvisation and I stole a snippet of her long recording. It’s quite a strange arpeggio. She sent me the midi version so I could replay it, but I quite liked the rough sound of the midi version so put that straight in.” “Satellite 9” KC: “I broke the record down into different sections in my head and imagined it as a journey from the outskirts of a city to the center and then back again. ‘Satellite 9’ is almost like the train journey going into the city. It really hones in on the Detroit influence of the album and the futuristic vibe of the 606 again.” “Zone 1 (24 Hours)” KC: “This is the peak moment of the record for me. It’s a bit longer and a bit more clubby. It began as another track which I was about to scrap, but as I was mixing it and cutting it up quite aggressively, this other idea came out of it. I was playing it live, mixing it and recording it all at the same time, so it came together very instinctively.” “Human Voices” KC: “I think of this record as a trip, as clichéd as that sounds, so for the final track on the album, we return to something more naturalistic. I worked on music for this album for a long time, but what’s actually on the record all came together quite quickly at the end of the sessions. And this was another track where something I really liked came from mixing and playing around with something I was initially that happy about.”

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