I get to the Imperial too early, and it is already hot. Red lighting and smoke machine haze give the venue a steam room vibe — either that, or slightly reminiscent of the opening sequence from a bad ‘80s action movie set in stereotypical Chinatown, complete with a fish tank near the bar and fake terracotta warriors decoratively looming over the dance floor. Seriously though, where am I?
Suitman Jungle (“I wear a suit, and I play jungle”) opens, transporting the audience of 40 or so to the streets of London with recordings of the Underground, British parliament and casual conversation woven into jungle beats. Suitman Jungle is a playful performer. Every song is a narrative meriting some explanation and context. During one song he talks about writing a letter. He says he signs “‘Yours Faithfully,’ because I don’t really know the person.” At one point he takes “a break” to read headlines from Vancouver’s Metro newspaper. He asks us specific questions about the structure of Canadian government (embarrassingly, the small audience stays silent). It is, of course, election day in the U.K., and as the sounds of London fill the Imperial, Suitman Jungle’s set is a not-so-subtle reminder that politics fill his thoughts.
In no time at all the Imperial fills up, and Australia’s KUCKA begins. Her set opens with recordings of birds — a fitting transition from Suitman Jungle’s sample-heavy set. KUCKA improvises her beats in the moment and layers her vocals to create an electronic soundscape not unlike the familiar music of Stefana Fratila or Grimes’ early albums. The audience mirrors KUCKA’s stage presence and dances anonymously. I close my eyes while dancing and let the bright stage lights pass over me. I notice that someone around me smells like strawberries, and it stays with me. KUCKA’s set is an authentically sensory experience — the perfect lead into Mount Kimbie.
Mount Kimbie holds off four songs before saying hello. Kai Campos explains, “Last night we played, where the fuck? Somewhere small … I got used to playing to 10 people, so this is a bit fucked up.” Looking around, the room is packed and the audience is hanging off Campos’ every word. It’s hard to imagine them playing near-empty rooms.
Mount Kimbie performs live as a 4-piece with Campos and Dominic Maker as the focus. They alternate instruments seamlessly. The nature of the stage presence seems to imply that Campos and Maker perform in their own worlds, each adding to a shared universe. They play a balance of older and newer songs, but they are stylistically distinct. Newer tracks, including “Marilyn” and “We Go Home Together” have a sophistication that exemplifies Mount Kimbie’s slow drift from trap. Not that the audience is paying much attention to the stylistic tension — even wallflowers for KUCKA and Suitman Jungle joined the dancing for Mount Kimbie. Near the end of the set, Campos addresses the audience again as if completing his initial opening comments: “It’s a real pleasure to have some of you come out when we’ve done jack-shit for four years.”
No, it was our pleasure.