Mount Kimbie have always defied categorisation. Their early recordings were simple affairs of skittering programmed drums and some fairly lo-fi synth atmosphere. They deployed this to devastating effect, earning them a debut album released on Hotflush, and a second one on Warp, where it seemed they would fit in nicely amidst the Sheffield label’s stable of experimental electronic artists. That second album, Cold Spring Fault Less Youth, was much less beats-oriented than their debut, instead comprising many more vocal tracks and a range of different analogue instruments that impressed upon the listener that Mount Kimbie is a band, not a pair of producers. It seems that the electronic gait of their earlier work was more of a case of them working to their abilities and resources, and as those have grown we have seen more truly what they intend to do with Mount Kimbie’s sound. That becomes even more clear on their third album, Love What Survives, for better and worse.

The first and most obvious thing is that from the very beginning you could never classify Love What Survives as an electronic album, despite the perennial synth use and the Warp stamp. Opener ‘Four Years and One Day’ introduces us to the fizzing instrumental micro-prog that makes up most of the album. As an introduction it’s a good one, full of the grit and atmosphere that they’ve conjured in their past work. This is doubled down on as the album leads into the King Krule featuring ‘Blue Train Lines’, where Archie Marshall savagely and deliriously spits his words of redundant fearlessness and the Mount Kimbie boys rattle along in a pretty much straight-ahead art-rock song pinned down on booming percussion. The song is one of the real standouts of the album, and that now makes a hattrick of great songs that Mount Kimbie and King Krule have created together – enough to suggest that a full collaborative album would be a very worthwhile project.

The other pinnacle of Love What Survives is the Micachu feature ‘Marilyn’. The song is a glue trap of tinkling electronics bells and understated jazzy drumming, wherein Mica Levi’s androgynous voice turns the simple earworm phrase “I’m lookin’ up at you yeah/ are you looking up at me?” into an inhabitable, infinite moment where nothing is happening but everything is on the line. It’s a remarkable little hall of mirrors in a song, and one of the finest in Mount Kimbie’s collection.

But, in looking at these two standouts, it becomes clear where the rest of the tracks here are slightly lacklustre. The two James Blake features ‘We Go Home Together’ and ‘How We Got By’ are both well-produced, crystalline cold songs, but do little to differentiate themselves from anything Blake has recorded on his own before. With a voice and style that dominant and recognisable, he makes a song his own, and perhaps Mount Kimbie would have been better off warping his voice a little more, avoiding any kind of keyboards or pianos, or only using one of the two songs. Semi-official new member Andrea Ballency contributes vocals on ‘You Look Certain (I’m Not So Sure)’, but the song is unremarkable even with her committed performance. Better is ‘T.A.M.E.D’, where she and the Mount Kimbie boys sing together over a crawling synth, evoking the distance between the singer and the person she’s asking to “think about me every day.”

The other five songs (including the aforementioned opener ‘Four Years and One Day’) are all instrumental, and they certainly feel as though they are lacking that focal point of a singer. Not sparse enough to match up to the beats-focused energy of their early work, nor melodically interesting enough to stand up on their own, all of them seem like little more than transitions between the songs with singing. They are mere vignettes; ideas waiting for animation.

Although I said at the top that Love What Survives shows Mount Kimbie further working towards their own sound that they’ve always desired to make, it is also true that they seem to be relatively absent here. Aside from ‘T.A.M.E.D’, they do not make any other vocal appearances themselves, which is a shame seeing as many of the highlights from Cold Spring Fault Less Youth featured their singing. Instead here we’re left with many songs that could have used some voices, or ones where the voices dominate proceedings, taking the focus away from the creators. Let’s hope Mount Kimbie strike a better balance between showing off themselves and their friends next time around.