Caribou's Greatest (and Weirdest) Hits
by Philip Sherburne | October 19, 2012
Dan Snaith released a new album this month, the first long-player under his relatively new alias Daphni. You probably know him as Caribou, a Canadian-born, London-based producer of melodious, richly textured, wide-eyed psych-pop with an even wilder full-band live show. The Daphni project marks a shift in direction, with music that's comparatively stripped-down and geared for the dance floor. Where Caribou billows, Daphni is lean and wiry. As Caribou, Snaith tends to write songs; as Daphni, he makes tracks.
In fact, much of the material on Jiaolong was made simply for Snaith to play in his own sets; several tracks, such as "Yes, I Know" and "Ne Noya," are edits of other musicians' work, re-tooled according to Snaith's own particular vision of club music. Other tracks are extended jams on synthesizer and drum machine, semi-improvised little electronic fugues designed to bridge old funk 45s and house classics and Albert Ayler cuts, or whatever Snaith happens to have in his bag that night.
But, as you might guess about a musician with such catholic tastes (and the temerity to mix them up in public), the line between Caribou and Daphni is actually plenty blurry. Snaith has produced several storming, floor-centric remixes as Caribou -- particularly, Virgo Four's vintage Chicago house cut "It's a Crime," which he turned into one of 2011's biggest underground hits. Way back in 2003, when he still recorded as Manitoba, he turned out a cracking 2-step garage tune with "If sshl*s Could Fly, This Place Would Be an Airport" -- a pitch-perfect pastiche of U.K. club music up there with Squarepusher's "Red Hot Car." And even within any of Snaith's semi-discrete identities, there's nothing you could call a uniform style. Just compare Caribou's four albums -- Start Breaking My Heart, Up in Flames, Andorra and Swim -- which range from bucolic pop to knotty experiments in texture that feel knit together out of clouds and cotton candy. Once you start factoring in his remixes of artists like Four Tet, Carl Craig and Radiohead, you realize how mutable Snaith's voice is -- and at the same time, perhaps ironically, how consistent his vision.
I'm a huge fan of Snaith's productions under all his aliases. I'm also a huge fan of his unstated philosophy: If you play it, they will dance. As a tribute to his music and his method, I put together a playlist of some of my favorite work that he's created under his various aliases, solo productions and remixes alike, as well as some of the best remixes of his music, by likeminded artists like Four Tet, Hot Chip and DJ Koze. It's a grab bag, of sorts, and I've left it intentionally jumbled, precisely to preserve the element of surprise that he wields so well.