An instantly enjoyable third effort as Caribou from the Polaris Prize-winning Dan Snaith.
Chris Beanland 2010
Dan Snaith is a doctor of maths – and with his albums everything seems to add up. Stripped and purified beats sit comfortably with an atmosphere of the ethereal, while Snaith's lullaby vocals lead you into exciting new worlds.
Thirty-two-year-old Snaith – a Canadian currently living in Britain – has been making music for more than 10 years. First he recorded under the Manitoba moniker, before legal shenanigans called for a change to the name Caribou.
Across the course of his career the mild-mannered musician has picked up a host of fans and accomplices. The people he's spent time with, and had playing in his live band, include Four Tet, The Flaming Lips and Sun Ra – and this assortment of associates provide an inkling into the way in which the Caribou sound has developed. There's nothing out of place in Snaith's cerebral music, and this is true of his third album as Caribou.
Snaith has said that he wants to make dance music which sounds more like water than metal, and the swirling and swishing effects on opener Odessa are perfect exemplars of this theory. He almost whispers over the sound waves, but the beats are never anything less than precise. The track – the album’s lead single, too – features a slightly darker edge than we're used to; certainly the rhythms on it are insistent rather than dreamy. Perhaps the subject matter here – which apparently touches on loneliness – is also at play. But Swim, as a whole, is far from a depressing listen – in fact there are moments which are almost transcendental, such as on the uplifting Kaili.
At the other end of the album, the closing Jamelia features the twisted and tribal vocals of Born Ruffians' singer Luke LaLonde. It acts as the sister piece to Swim’s dramatic opener, the two songs bookending a record which could be simply assessed as intelligent dance music. But it offers much more than mere stimulation for body moving.
There is, unquestionably, a mass of fortitude at work from the creator throughout. Further outstanding tracks, Leave House and Bowls, feature tightly regimented, beautifully controlled beats designed to nourish the mind of both maker and listener, as much as they are built to prick ears and jolt limbs. But despite such a sentiment, Swim is never less than instantly enjoyable either.