Caribou - Swim (4 stars)

Caribou - Swim

(City Slang)

Canadian dance-floor explorer Dan Snaith, alias Caribou and formerly Manitoba, recently amassed a spectacular live backing band for the New York leg of All Tomorrow’s Parties. It was at the behest of the Flaming Lips, and counted Four Tet, some Junior Boys, some Born Ruffians and the Sun Ra Arkestra’s Marshall Allen among its number. The pedigree and diversity of these aural voyagers illustrates the breadth of forms that Snaith commands and forages in the name of electronic music.

Caribou’s last album, the otherworldly Andorra, received Canada’s Polaris Prize in 2008 (the equivalent of our Mercury) and with good reason: its hazy terrain of 60s pop, fuzzy electronica and dreamy psych-rock was distinctly ambrosial – and arguably paved the way for myriad Brooklynite synth-boppers hence.

Swim is a considerably more spacious, focused and mercurial affair, in which clarion electronic compositions and wilfully misshapen dance templates have prominence. The instrumental roll-call, meanwhile, is polychromatic, and global: Tibetan bowls, steel drums, cowbells, saxophones, guitars, horns, harps and sleigh bells feature. The record is regularly augmented by unlikely orchestral flourishes and syncopated percussive exotica.

Back-loaded with elated floor-fillers – and opening with the well-hyped crystalline disco of ‘Odessa’ – Swim variously plunges into glacial ambient techno (‘Bowls’), propulsive club-land jazz (‘Hannibal’), acid-house reverie (‘Kaili’), and primordial electropop (the hair-raising magnum opus, ‘Leave House’). Yet Snaith’s latent characteristics – his congenital melodic impulse, his reedy, size-zero vocals, and his way with a flute – remain evident. They distinguish a singular, innovative and consistent – not to say loveable – creature indeed.


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