Caribou is Canadian Dan Snaith. He’s got a PhD in Maths, which instantly impresses me since I have always both been useless and detested maths at the same time. It used to irritate me. Luckily, I can’t say the same thing about Caribou: Dan definitely doesn’t irritate me at all.
“Swim” isn’t his first album by any means. Snaith has travelled through different styles on many previous records (he won prizes for his last record, “Andorra”) and here he’s landed squarely on the grown-up electro spectrum.
It’s a weird and wonderful album that twists here and there along the way. Opener “Odessa” is simply twisted, with a synth hook that’s wild and haunting, underpinning the fact that Snaith knows how to put something catching into a song. But it’s the fact that his songs seem so textured that really grabs you. On “Odessa” his vocals are as fragile as ever but when he layers them with the deep underlying bass and the disturbing hook they almost take on a creepy life of their own: a stalker in the shadow, maybes?
But if you really want to understand Caribou and his love of texture, then stick some headphones on and get yourself over to track 3. “Kaili” is one of those headphone moments. Sounds decent and standout on the record but takes on a whole new life through those little earbuds. Seriously, it took me by surprise! The swirling electro beats move from one side of your head to another and it feels very strange indeed: Snaith’s vocals are nearly drowned by the circling noise but it’s brilliant. Yes, very brilliant. He stops the swirling two-thirds through the song and slowly reaches the repetitive climax. This is what Daft Punk used to be good at: repetition without being remotely boring.
“Leave House” is another standout track that uses flutes and horns very subtly to cover up a dark twist underneath. Here Snaith is less drowned in his own work and his voice can be heard more clearly. But in some ways this doesn’t really matter. On most of “Swim”, Caribou’s vocals are simply another level and don’t hold the significance that they might on other dance records. You only have to listen to “Found Out” to realise that his arrangements stand and carry the story on their own. The gloom-ridden and slightly more downbeat synths are pieced together so that, whatever Snaith may be briefly singing about at the beginning of the track, the same dark undertones are carried through wonderfully.
If “Andorra” won so many awards then surely as a whole “Swim” has to be a masterclass in how to texture and make a less shallow dance record in comparison to some of the rubbish that’s being churned out today. One listen to “Kaili” and you’ll be wowed. Really.