Send me your track


Caribou - Swim


City Slang

 It is perhaps inevitable that a man with a maths PHD and an upbringing in the bucolic backwaters of Canada should produce music with such a tantalizing individuality. Dan Snaith’s Caribou project has merged psychedelia with a loose hybrid of organic and electronic sounds, but more importantly brings a sense of adventure to proceedings.

His aim for “Swim”, his 4th album, was to produce something that sounded like it was in water and whilst we don’t hear any Drexciyan burblings from the deep, there’s an aqueous feel to the form and feel of these tracks. At the core of these compositions is a proto-techno rhythmic base, but the defining aspect of the album is how the various sonic elements seem to emerge and disappear almost by osmosis. Post-rock is too tainted a term for me to anoint the music with, as there are too many moments that lock into into the hypnotic aspects of house or techno - it’s a unique hybrid that thankfully does not descend into taking the most obvious from each genre.

“Odessa” is a beautiful way to start the album -  an angular bassline supporting Snaith’s whispering and oddly charming voice (though it reeks of geek it has to said) as various percussion jangles in the background. More importantly it’s funky almost without you realising it and shimmers with an intensity that belies its laidback nature. The hypnotic overture of “Sun” is one of the album’s highights - and again almost by subterfuge his vocals draw you in - even if it is just him shouting “Sun” endlessly - a warping leadline not out of place on a Dan Bell record climaxes with a euphoric intensity before descending into a psychedelic bloodbath of noise. The synthesis of organic rhythms and electronic noise is played to perfection here.

As mentioned previously, one of the album’s many highlights is how various sounds seem to just emerge out of nowhere. Apart from the rhythms it’s often hard to ascertain their source - often staying around just long enough before disappearing into the shadows again. Snaith keeps the sound loose enough that you often think that things are on the verge of falling apart. That tension is key to enjoyment of this album - especially on “Bowls”. With a bassline and lead that sounds like a marriage of Theo Parrish and LFO, it stalks the land with intent, yet out of nowhere matters are suddenly stopped by a glorious 5 second string wash. These surprises only help.

 Yet on “Found Out” , a simple 4 note organ riff and guitar line keeps your interest throughout - it’s a taut track that keeps the narrative interesting. “Lalibela” similarly, is just a drum track with a pastoral synth line yet the contrast in melody with other tracks fits perfectly.  

Elements of primeval electronic dance music can be heard throughout “Swim” but they’re sculpted in such a way to sound new and refreshing. From the bubbling bass on “Hannibal” to the frenetic crash of “Kaili”, there are indirect references. However, all of Snaith’s sounds and sources sound refreshingly idiosyncratic.

At the core is a desire to make music with a real sense of unabridged joy. Snaith’s vocals are key to this, being full of warmth and range. Supported by that though is a range of sounds and compositions that, like wave crashing onto a beach, reveal more and more with repeated listening as they wash over you. From simplistic grooves to taut, tension-filled drama, this is a fantastic example of what can be achieved with the right synthesis of live and electronic sounds.  “Swim” is a signpost of the future and without doubt the album of the year.

Toby Frith

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>
« Jeff Mills | Main | Von Spar - Foreigner »