fri 27/11/2020

CD: Caribou - Our Love | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Caribou - Our Love

CD: Caribou - Our Love

Familiar tics, but can the Canadian electronica tinkerer make them fresh?

There's a narrative that I recall from one particular "Ball Boy" strip in the Beano comic many years ago, but I'm pretty sure was recurring in similar cartoon strips too, of a bookworm or boffin character impinging on the tough kids' game, but then proving his worth by using his book learning to calculate, say, the perfect goal-scoring kick in a football match.

There's a narrative that I recall from one particular "Ball Boy" strip in the Beano comic many years ago, but I'm pretty sure was recurring in similar cartoon strips too, of a bookworm or boffin character impinging on the tough kids' game, but then proving his worth by using his book learning to calculate, say, the perfect goal-scoring kick in a football match. Maybe it was far-fetched, but it spoke to a deep hope – not just as a simple “revenge of the nerds” narrative, but a hint that maybe the complexities of life and of human games and teams could actually be worked out.

And maybe there's an element of something similar in the appeal of Dan Snaith aka Caribou. The 36-year-old Canadian doctor of mathematics (his PhD at Imperial College London was in Overconvergent Siegel Modular Symbols, to be precise) and friend of Thom Yorke and Four Tet makes music that could only come from a powerfully analytic and methodical mind, so meticulously and finely constructed is it – but which also has the ability to strike unerringly at individual and collective pleasure centres, which has made him an unlikely star of clubland.

This is his sixth album – seventh if you include one by his more stripped-down dance music guise Daphni – and it draws its patterns and sounds from a range of sources. You can hear the R&B of early 2000s Timbaland somehow blending into space disco ("All I Ever Need"), the arena-sized chug of classic mid-90s Underworld ("Mars"), the pirate radio syncopation of speed garage ("Julia Brightly") the high synth drama of Depeche Mode ("Back Home"), the currently hugely popular chart-dance adaptation of underground tech house ("Our Love") and a ton of other electronic and psychedelic tics and tricks that resonate with immense familiarity.

Somehow, though, with just slight inversions or unlikely juxtapositions, Snaith makes them all sound like he's discovering the newest, most innocently exciting techniques. It's never like he's trying to subvert or pastiche his materials: rather like he's getting to the heart of each piece of sound or rhythms, working out its strengths and how it can fit into his bigger machine. The effect is beautiful: the sense of euphoria it evokes is complex, but hits instantly whether you're alone or in a huge crowd. The magic of Snaith's songs – and perhaps the moral of the “bookworm works it out” narrative – is not just that they're clever, not just that they have such a direct effect on the nervous system, but that they reveal intellectual achievement, bodily pleasure and social interaction as utterly inseparable.

There's a ton of electronic and psychedelic tics and tricks that resonate with immense familiarity

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Explore topics

Share this article

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters