Caribou - Swim (City Slang)

Caribou's most recent album is a thrilling combination of sounds with an ambition to get every one of its listeners to abandon their armchairs and start dancing.

Released Apr 22nd, 2010 via City Slang / By Simon Harper
Caribou - Swim (City Slang) Filled with vibrant colour and a multi-layered heart, the latest full-length offering from Caribou – aka Dan Snaith – is a swirling, genre-hopping proposition. It’s a record which germinated thanks to a live show, specifically Snaith being invited to perform at the Flaming Lips-curated New York leg of the ATP festival.

Swim maintains a lot of the elements that Snaith integrated for his live set, including earthy instrumentation to sit next to the soaring electronics, not least horns and flute which are effortlessly absorbed into the mix alongside lean guitar melodies as well as inventive beats and glitches.

Opening track ‘Odessa’ is pulsing pop-dance, melding echo-laden drums with a trampolining bass riff, pounding piano chords and taut guitar, gradually bringing in disparate elements including flute bursts and all manner of percussion, injecting proceedings with a healthy dose of funk.

It’s this adventurous combination of sounds which is what’s most striking about Snaith’s output, and it results in an album which demands listening to on headphones, begging the listener not to miss any of the tiny details which are uncovered with each play. Similarly, the insistent pop propulsion of ‘Leave House’ is endearingly expansive in corralling pneumatic beats with snaking flute and electronic gurgles, while the slow-building ‘Hannibal’ incorporates chimes into its bubbling techno landscape.

Such desire for depth and texture doesn’t mean that Swim eschews more rudimentary principles of dance music. Snaith achieves an irresistible alchemy, twinning experimentation and varied instrumentation with an overriding sense of danceability, succeeding with a similar panache to that of LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy. And equally enthusiastic use of cowbell.

This urge to move listeners from the armchair to the dancefloor is most obvious on ‘Kaili’, an outright house track built on cascading synths, undulating rhythms and twitchy flute, topped off with a soothing vocal take. As is often the case with Caribou, there’s a twist in the tale, though, provided by the skronking free-jazz coda which stretches and pulls the song in an entirely new direction, leaving saxophone squalls as its calling card before fading out.

The vocal melody from that track is reprised on ‘Lalibela’, a brief and wonky jam of shuffling beats which morphs into a mellifluous coda, before quickly departing. Despite being a brief snatch of an idea, it’s representative of how much ground Snaith covers on Swim, rarely standing still and instead striving to create new inspiration and new concoctions. He manages it in abundance.