Caribou – Swim

Rating: ★★★½☆

Remix artists rejoice! Daniel Snaith is back and he brings with him a fresh palette of sublime beats for you to disassemble. Continuing to add to his extensive discography, his latest Swim was just released via Merge Records, his first full length since Andorra, released in 2007. Snaith, hailing from Ontario, utilizes a full band on the record, and the product sounds like a digital and electro production alone. In fact, it’s stunning what kind of layering Snaith accomplishes using traditional instruments like soprano sax, flute, and trombone.

The opening track “Odessa” is a good intro to the record and holds one of the more catchy bass lines. The tambourine throughout is sometimes distracting on first listen, but quickly fades as your ear dissects different angles. Immediately upon the first listen, one thing is certain. This is party music. Straight ‘get off your ass and dance’ music. Actually, it’s the best kind of party music; the type that sneaks up you. You know the feeling; the party is still young and you want to make it a little livelier. This is a good scenario for Swim. It’s the kind of music that doesn’t dominate the room, but politely sits in the corner, simmering like Boeuf Bougiuignon. When you least expect it, you find yourself tapping your foot or nodding your head. That’s right where Snaith wants you. He plays with moods in the simplest way possible, but it’s nothing flashy. Think Ghostland sans Capes; but with harmonies instead.

The next track “Sun” shows a more melodic side than the opener, but continues the simple electro beats. The rhythm builds to a vast crescendo, and if you don’t move at least some part of your body during which; you should probably check your pulse.  For all I enjoyed on “Sun”, “Kalli” quickly brought me down. It is perhaps the most intrusive track of the album, like a jazz improv going horribly wrong. Maybe I don’t understand the nuances of Caribou, but this was like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. Luckily, “Found out” gets the groove back with some of the best songwriting on the release.  “Bowls”, the longest track on the album has showcases disharmonious chimes played against harp strumming. It’s an unusual instrumental, but that segues into a stripped down beat that might have you looking around the room thinking you tripped over a cord and unplugged a speaker. It’s not the catchiest song on the album, but here Snaith shows off his ability to layer every sound imaginable into a somewhat literate dance number. For me, I’ll stick to the vocal tracks.

“Leave House” and “Hannibal” get the party vibe back, as Caribou channels his inner Hot Chip on the former. And as always, you can always add more cowbell as heard on the latter. The shortest track “Lalibela”, could be considered transitional, leading into the final track, but in its own right, it is a gem.  Finishing on a very strong note, no doubt my favorite track on the album “Jamelia” is sublime. The subtlety, the beat, the vocals, the instrumentation; it’s like a difficult jigsaw puzzle and you just found the last piece. It builds to a massive extended crescendo before trailing off slowly. For me, it quickly prompted a second listen to the album as a whole. I can’t say that about many release so far this year. Overall, it’s a short release, but it shows what Snaith does well in no uncertain terms. It’s straight forward, but dense, utilizing layering in unique ways.  Next time you have a party, be sure to grab this one.

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