Review : Caribou - Swim
PitchforkIn his decade-long career, Caribou's Dan Snaith has fluidly moved between genres like folktronica, shoegaze, krautrock, and 1960s sunshine pop, assimilating their most familiar traits until they're practically in his DNA. His albums have felt warm, loose, and ecstatic (especially 2003's still-career-best Up in Flames), despite Snaith's behind-the-boards meticulousness.
Snaith's latest, Swim, is even heavier on the precise sonic detail, and it's all the more impressive for it. Made with help from kindred spirits including Four Tet's Kieran Hebden, Junior Boys' Jeremy Greenspan, and Born Ruffians' Luke Lalonde, it was borne out of a desire to create "dance music that sounds like it's made out of water." Swim is darker both in tone and spirit than its predecessor, 2007's day-glo Andorra, swapping expansive drum-circle arrangements and ebullience for chilly rhythms and a bummed-out disposition. Easy entrance points here are scarcer than on any of Snaith's previous full-lengths-- as with 2005's kraut-centric The Milk of Human Kindness, repeat listens are key....full text
Obscuresoundt is difficult to classify Dan Snaith’s newest album, Swim, as either a step forward or backwards from its widely acclaimed predecessor, Andorra. Whereas that basked in gorgeous ‘60 pop with technological additives, Swim takes a more direct approach in its use of electronics. The album’s name alone, Swim, derives from Snaith’s desire to give his songs a sort of flexible “flow” not often characteristic in dance music. With a reputation for rigid structures and repetitive loops, dance music does not exactly coincide with the way water flows back and forth unpredictably, but not capricious enough as to prevent instantaneous enjoyment. Snaith has never been a stranger to ambition, so seeing him tackle a new sound on Swim is not all that surprising. Despite this shift though, the newest Caribou album still sounds distinctively like Caribou. It helps that Snaith’s whimper of a voice is distinctive enough to warrant this in most cases. Regardless of what stylistic fetish he plans to explore the songwriting remains generally solid and, at the very least, thematically or structurally interesting. The thematic notion of Swim into Snaith’s conception of flexible dance music is certainly evident in a stylistic sense, even if a couple tracks do rely too much on a singular driving idea. For the songs that allow themselves to expand, which describes most of the tracks on Swim, they reach successful territory as usual for Snaith.
Snaith’s collaboration with Junior Boys’ Jeremy Greenspan on Swim is highly indicative of the album’s direction, as it seems Greenspan may have even given Snaith a few pointers for adjusting his vocals to a style of production more likened to the electronica of Junior Boys and Kelley Polar. These artists employ rhythmic effects that are somewhat unconventional for contemporary electronic-pop, often ditching cliched components of electronica like auto-tuning and forced flanging for more structurally daring feats. Swim follows in that ideology quite familiarly and Snaith’s ceaselessly unique vision creates some very interesting results. There is noticeably less reverb and special effects on Snaith’s vocals than on Andorra, and this in addition to the instrumentation being more minimalistic and electronic makes new interests in dubstep and old flings like Kraut-rock emerge for Snaith. Even if some tracks like “Kali” and “Lalibela” implement prevalent vocal effects for suitable atmospheric effect, the electronic aspects of production on Swim are implemented more accordingly to its arsenal of instrumentation and song structures....full text
RevilerBeach House may now have a serious contender for album of the year on their hands. Canadian electronic artist Dan Snaith’s new record Swim (recorded under the Caribou pseudonym) is a masterful piece of dexterity, a true sea change from 2007’s equally facile, but completely different sounding Andorra. In the creation of Swim Snaith is quoted as saying he “got excited by the idea of making dance music that’s liquid in the way it flows back and forth” and that aquatic aspect is prevalent in all nine house-influenced tracks. While the house music’s traditional cool sound of the drum machine percussion and synthesizer beats is still there, Snaith has toned them down to a more lush, organic style, which combined with the reverb, at times gives that distorted, enveloping feel of hearing something underwater.
The first single off the record is obviously “Odessa,” the record’s jumping-off point and also one of the better tracks I have heard all year. “Odessa”s ice cold beats and industrial sound is actually a departure from most of Swim, but it’s also a great signifier for anyone familiar with Caribou’s last work that things have changed dramatically. The rest of the record hews slightly closer to Snaith’s patented organic take on electronic music, even if the resemblance becomes at times difficult to identify. One of the biggest differences comes in the vocal parts, which in tracks like “Sun” consist only of the same word repeated over and over under the influence of different pitches and distortions, while “Bowls” and “Hannibal” have practically no vocals at all. And surprisingly the less vocals there are the more the music seems to make sense. In a song like “Bowls” particularly the beats made out of found sounds and synths make for such a fluid, out of body experience that vocals would seem inappropriate. By contrast “Leave House,” while a decent dance track in its own right, sounds less interesting for its insistence on the more traditional vocal chorus structure. That doesn’t make for a hard and fast rule though, as “Kaili” is one of the record’s best tracks, and its vocal element is absolutely key to the sound. While the track’s upbeat pace makes it one of the dancier titles, Snaith’s monumental howl brings to mind more than any other song the epic scope of his previous work on Andorra.
Vocals or no, there isn’t a single track on Swim that doesn’t shine with its own unique quality – even the quick, two and a half minute “Lallibella” is absolutely beautiful for its relatively simple swelling and receding synths over a drum machine. It’s a testament to Snaith’s ability as a composer that he can craft such an epic sound from such minimal elements. And you can hardly deny his talent. The artist’s discography has been a straight arrow continually reaching new heights in quality with every subsequent release. At some point Snaith will undoubtedly reach his apex and plateau, but if Swim is any indicator, for now his virtuosity remains anything but stagnant....full text
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