Reflective, reverie-friendly laptop electronica
Ontario-born, London-based studio auteur Daniel Snaith has been crafting simultaneously visceral and cerebral electronic symphonies for the better part of a decade now, first under the Manitoba handle and lately as Caribou, and as his compositions have grown in nuance, so has his critical acclaim. Caribou's previous album, 2007's gorgeously imaginative and cohesive Andorra, scooped Canada's 2008 Polaris Music Prize, and this frequently sublime follow-up scales similar creative heights. Snaith's forte is reflective, reverie-friendly laptop electronica which sounds fluid despite being dense with loops, samples, distortion and eccentric instrumentation. He is always subtle, never strident: There are points on Swim where his arch, keening vocal and diffident arrangements suggest a post-rock take on turn-of-the-millennium alt/country existentialists Grandaddy. Opening track "Odessa," a forensic dissection of domestic abuse from the viewpoint of its female victim, unfolds delicately around a sinisterly throbbing electro-pulse, while the blanched "Kaili," all hyperventilating antique synths and dislocated, unsettling time signatures, could be Animal Collective at their most lithe and knowing. Snaith's feminine-sounding vocal has a halting, almost apologetic timbre but paradoxically gains from this very limitation, imbuing the shimmering, steel drum-driven closing track "Jamelia" with a delicious, beguiling vulnerability. Unless he snags a TV ad, Swim is unlikely to shoot Caribou to mainstream success, but why should it? This prescient, private music belongs between life's cracks, in the margins.