Review Summary: Daniel Snaith finds structure for his latest batch of machinations.
I like to imagine there is a box in Daniel Snaith’s bedroom, plain and unadorned, approximately the size of a small concrete block. Inside the box, there is another box and within that nested box, there is a tiny tree that blooms a variety of chromatic miniature fruits.
Some evenings, Snaith opens his box. He opens the box within his box as well, plucking the ripest fruit from whatever branch sags most. Then, with the serenity of a midwife, he walks into his kitchen and opens a drawer. He pulls out a knife. It’s like a graduated toothpick, a backstabber with a comparatively massive handle. He places the minuscule fruit on a wooden board and slices it open. Juice spurts; he pulls back the rind (with great difficulty on account of the size of this tiny fruit) and eats the flesh, picking the seeds out with great care. The flesh of the fruit is sweet, but not satisfying.
When he finishes, he picks a seed, tosses the rest and walks out onto a balcony-- or perhaps garden, should he live in a house-- and deposits the seed into a nest of mirthless soil. A wait of five or six weeks, and then the phone rings. It’s Lucille. She wants her herald back. He’s had it since last winter, she says. Took it after he returned the muezzin and posies, which he borrowed last spring. He doesn’t remember; the posies wilted a long time ago, but he promises her that he will look for it. Oh, and in the midst of all these delusions he somehow makes music, too.
is the latest product of this swirl of bedroom fancies, another record full of shoegaze, krautrock and psychedelic tropes, his first for Merge Records. Unfazed by the moniker shift, Snaith continues in the tradition of his catalogue, offering a vision of symphonic pop on a laptop that reeks of none of the manic computer affectation that stymies the work of so many bedroom producers. But if Snaith’s gift is to make digital sound organic, it’s his broad sonic palette that draws listeners in and captivates the ear.
Sure enough, Snaith is plenty capable of immediate delights. Retro-electro psychedelic confections like the furiously catchy “Melody Day” find him looking towards the melodic elegance of baroque pop for inspiration, even if he doesn’t stray far from his Teutonic rhythmic urges. It’s not until “Desiree,” perhaps an homage to baroque pop paragons The Left Banke, that we see just how far he is willing to take this interest. No hint of the Manitoba motorik beats and trip-hop stomp that defines so many Caribou tunes, just wistful melodicism and ornate arrangement, the stuff of a Curt Boettcher desert tray.
To be fair, preciousness has never been foreign to Snaith’s brand of electronic manipulation. But if it wasn’t for his growth as a songwriter, the change might be more oppressive. It’s his impressive development in this sense that keeps Andorra
from toppling over against the weight of all the fanciful genre-bending. On “She’s the One,” a collaboration with Junior Boy Jeremy Greenspan, he shows capable of restraint, letting Greenspan’s boyish presence elevate above minimal fuss. Meanwhile, tracks like “Irene” suggest that the evolving pop of his previous outing The Milk of Human Kindness
is capable of evaporating into kind, accessible atmospherics. Even when he does slip into the ether with a cut like “Niobe” or “After Hours,” his washes of sound seem more controlled than ever, boarding on a systematic quality that could sound robotic and gone if pushed further.
The dichotomy between Snaith’s growth as a songwriter versus the constraints of his songwriting methods seem more balanced here compared to The Milk of Human Kindness
, which proves much more of a transitory album in the light of Andorra
. Whereas the 2005 version of Caribou missteps here and there and becomes staid from its lack of pliancy, Andorra
strikes out further, reaching deeper into Snaith’s box of musical curiosities which are, at once, tasteful and fruitfully tawdry. Phantasmagoric and stunningly organic, another crowd pleaser for fans of Daniel Snaith’s aural hallucinogens.