Caribou – Swim review

Dan Snaith is impossible to second guess; since his emergence on the Leaf label as Manitoba with Start Breaking My Heart in 2001, every subsequent release has veered in differing musical directions, with a craft and mastering of music that has gained him an ever increasing fan base. That debut is perhaps one of the more revered albums in the over stuffed genre that is the dreaded IDM.

This gave no clue as to the nature of his 2003 follow up, Up In Flames, which was a splendid explosion of Vitamin D-infused psychedelia and heavily percussive cosmiche grooves with the added bonus of vocals from Stones Throw veteran Koushnik.

2005’s The Milk Of Human Kindness under the legally enforced name change of Caribou took on an organic approach to hip-hop grooves and heavily percussive distorted funk outs. Andorra, Snaith’s 2007 album saw his song writing come to the fore combined with the natty sampling with the end product sounding like a forgotten masterpiece from the acid pop of the 1960s.

Flash forward three years and Snaith presents Swim his fifth, and perhaps best, album to date. “Odessa”, the album’s opening track will be familiar to most as City Slang released it as a free download earlier this year to give a taster of what to expect. For those that missed it, “Odessa” is the culmination of what happens when you throw together a mid nineties piano house line, some vocals remarkably reminiscent of Erlend Oye, a suitably bouncy bass-line and the sound of a chicken being strangled.

What follows is that most strange of things, a consistently brilliant dance album from a producer you would not normally associate with house and minimal techno. Previous interviews with Snaith have seen him disclose a love for Border Community boss James Holden, and that much is in evidence throughout, most notably on “Sun”, where crashing jazz percussion melds into an amazing throb of techno bliss. Indeed, the chime filled “Bowls” has already been earmarked for a remix by the amusingly coiffured Holden

It’s easy to focus on the music, brilliant as it is, and not pay attention to the vocals, for the most part sung by Snaith himself in that familiar Oye-esque voice and focusing mostly on the dynamics of relationship, most notably on “Odessa” and “Leave Home”. It’s only on album closer “Jamelia” that Snaith relinquishes vocal duties with Born Ruffians front man Luke Lalonde in what mutates sonically several  times in the space of four minutes.
Swim is a brilliant album which will either grab you immediately or lodge itself in your cerebral cortex over time and is certainly one of the best releases to date this year.

Review: Tony Poland