Mount Kimbie @ Icon Ultra Lounge

Mount Kimbie came through Los Angeles a few nights ago on the last leg of their U.S. tour to noodle their instruments at the Icon Ultra Lounge. Right next to the Staples Center downtown, this place had the palpable feeling that, on the previous night, a thousand Lakers fans clutched their third Miller Lite and gyrated around to LMFAO. Still, the system was good and the club was spacious: as a last minute venue-switch, the promoters could have done worse.

I’ve had a passing interest with Mount Kimbie since their first few releases in 2009. “Sketch On Glass” and “Maybes” are some fantastic records, and the James Blake remix of the latter has always stood out to me. Beyond that, “Crooks & Lovers” was a solid effort but didn’t capture my attention in the same way. Certainly, the majority of their output is nowhere near traditional club-fare, which made the venue and opening acts seem a little out of place.

This brings me to the subject of the opening DJs: Groundislava and Grenier. Both rank fairly high as far as homegrown California talent is concerned. In the past couple years, Grenier has made a strikingly smooth transition from dubstep into more forward-thinking sounds of house and techno. Groundislava is also a superb producer and DJ that deserves more recognition. “Feel Me,” his long-player on L.A. label Friends Of Friends that came out earlier this year, perfectly balances bedroom and club dynamics.

Groundislava opened things up with a stellar set of swinging garage and half-time beats backed by lush chords and melodies while video cuts from Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain played on the projector. Inspirational stuff. Grenier followed with that body-jacking style of house that demands you “get your ass on the floor” and work like you’re on the clock. Unfortunately, the crowd just wasn’t up to the task. Finding that perfect mix of great sound, great sets and a great crowd is a rare event, and despite a fantastic effort by the DJs, everyone just stood there waiting for Mount Kimbie. The smoking patio had double the attendance for the first two hours, a particularly sad fact given the quality of music inside.

A little after midnight Mount Kimbie took the stage and the room swelled with ponderous fans. A microphone was crooned into, a crash cymbal was hit, a guitar was strummed, loops were triggered, and a group of club-goers stood there. As far as live acts go, the pair had a fairly high standard and displayed a deft ability in mixing instruments with pre-recorded sounds. After a short 45 minute set, the two left the stage and returned a few minutes later to play a couple dancier tracks as an encore. Though, by the end, the crowd had sucked any enthusiasm and energy I had left in me, and was more than ready to head home when the house lights came on.

I understand that the two in Mount Kimbie don’t actually make dance music, but a lifeless crowd and a half empty club is not a formula for a fun night out. Maybe an indie club with less dance-oriented opening acts would have engendered a different set of expectations that would have been more appropriate for the low-key vibe of the headliners. If Mount Kimbie is your thing, they definitely delivered on their recorded output as promised, but don’t expect a high energy performance. From a personal perspective, I would have much rather seen the two openers in any other setting but the Icon Ultra Lounge filled with disinterested Mount Kimbie fans. Very disappointing night that had some great potential.

By Nikhil Joglekar