Seeing as Dan Snaith (the man behind Caribou, and before that Manitoba) has been making music for a solid ten years now, it's not exactly shocking to see him switching genres between albums. It's not much of a surprise to see how well he pulls it off either, or how every effort sounds quintessentially his regardless of how far Snaith pushes his boundaries. So when Odessa, which is easily one of the most psychedelic dance tunes in recent memory, was released as a free download in January, it didn't arouse curiosity nearly as much as it did anticipation. By Snaith's standards, the shift from his sixties sunshine pop flavored Andorra (which won the Polaris Music Prize in 2008) to more electronic disco styled dance of this year's Swim was a logical progression; particularly with how a few tracks on Andorra hinted a bit at this direction. Regardless, Dan Snaith has undoubtedly got a winner on his hands with Caribou's latest.
Though Swim's presentation as a disco-inflected dance album is clear, the heavy psychedelic effects he is known for are still prevalent. As mentioned earlier, Snaith is a master of accruing different sounds and incorporating them into his own unique style, while constantly moving forward; much like a musical Katamari (what, you've never played that game? pfft). Leave House is a perfect example of this amalgam - a flute loop reminiscent of earlier folk (or I guess I should call it "folktronica") along with trippy waves of synths, a solid, danceable beat, and almost unsettlingly joyful falsettos of "Leave house!" chirping throughout. Lalibela's heavy echo effects and warped first half remind the listener of Andorra, all while maintaining a certain head-bobbing quality; the same especially could be said for the closing Jamelia.
Odessa is a great introduction to Swim. Much like how Melody Day did with Andorra, its development over the course of four/five minutes serves to build the track itself up with exceedingly proficient layering, but the album's atmosphere as well. Snaith is incredibly meticulous in his arrangements, and it comes through in spades. Odessa is continuously absorbing additional sounds, particularly percussive ones, and holding them back then spitting them back out at the perfect moments. Sun and Kaili have similarly implemented percussion (and even horns on the latter) building around warm, throbbing synths, and both result in beautiful, dreamy tracks. Found Out has the strange distinction of combining summery, bright keyboards and an off beat, surf rock sounding guitar with a slow, trudging beat, and steady bells that almost bring Christmas to mind. There's a somewhat otherworldly feel achieved with this combination, and with the great, buried melodies to boot, it stands out very well in the midst of all the fantastic production found here.
Hannibal, much like Kaili, is built around a heavily distorted synth with horns gradually entering along with random percussion. What really makes the song special is how the main melody shifts between the left and right channels, almost sounding as it's floating. Seriously, if you're ever on something, put on a pair of headphones and BLARE THIS SONG. You will probably be the happiest you've been in recent memory.
Swim is spectacular, hands down. It's upbeat, it's adventurous, and its textures are incredibly deep, with quite a lot going on in each song. Swim really underlines one of the chief qualities that makes Caribou so great - how Dan Snaith can continue to evolve without any sacrifice to the elements he's accumulated in his music thus far. This album is extremely well constructed, both immediate and intricate, and only gets better with repeated listens.