Review Summary: A madness most discreet.
Dan Snaith’s love is true to its form. As Caribou, the Canadian ex-pat has been haunting the edges of electronic music for nearly a decade and a half, splicing neo-psychedelic flourishes with krautrock grooves and folk melodies, glitchy breakbeats with cerebral ambient. Cerebral, of course, almost being a requirement in any description of Snaith, who has an advanced doctorate in mathematics and has managed to make a living out of pursuing a unique path through laptop electronica and, with 2010’s Swim
, infiltrating broader, more mainstream circles. Like the rest of Caribou’s discography, Our Love
is a progression in Snaith’s sound, an acceptance of his affinity for the dance floor yet also a predictable arc away from 2012’s Daphni side project, which embraced the sweat and grit of his beats more thoroughly than anything before it. The end result is an oddly conflicted album, one that embraces the joys of escaping into a melody and a rhythm yet also emphasizes the mellow, often darker undercurrents beneath them. “Can’t Do Without You” opens the record with its title repeated in two different ways, one somber and longing, the other high and hopeful, percussion rustling softly underneath while synths swirl sluggishly up and around the vocals. Yet as the music continues to build into an ominous, threatening hum, the typical club buildup is subverted, bliss mingling with obsession and transforming a riveting buildup into a suffocating climax. “You’re the only one I think about,” Snaith sings in the background at the end, either merely devoted or dangerously attached, perhaps both. It’s the ideal thesis statement for the realistic and contrasting portrait of affection that Our Love
Judging from interviews, Snaith is arguably happier than he’s ever been – a longtime partner, a new child, a successful career and an album more anticipated than any he’s ever released. Where Our Love
could have been a sappy celebration, or even a fuller embodiment of Daphni’s well-received immediacy, tailored for clubs that have never been more welcoming of this type of music, Snaith’s penchant for going deeper is transformative. Snaith has mentioned that the record was inspired from hearing that Swim
tracks were big in Ibiza, and at times, it’s easy to see Snaith nodding at his newer fans. There’s the pounding, relentless, (and, yes, almost threatening) deep house beat that picks up halfway through the title track and kicks into a shuffling, climactic rhythm that is all strobes and ecstasy. That deceptively bendable melody and warped sound on “Second Chance” masks a straightforwardly beautiful vocal house track, with a sizable hat tip to Jessy Lanza’s lovely guest spot. “Mars” is the kind of track you could imagine at one of his marathon seven-hour sets, the relentless polyrhythms and hints of kuduro harkening back to his Daphni work. On “Back Home,” Caribou’s cogs and gears turn almost imperceptibly slow, burning low under Snaith’s wisp of a voice before coalescing into an anthemic, pummeling crush of crashing percussion and a hornets’ nest of synthesizers. There’s hints of a newer, more populist style, but it’s also still, very resolutely, Caribou being Caribou; Snaith reinventing his versatile catalogue into something more soulful and expressive and, sure, very, very groovy.
Snaith’s love is never so simple, however, to be confined to a single place. Many of the record’s most beautiful tracks only briefly skirt the edge of the kind of house you’d expect to bump at a rave. Closer “Your Love Will Set You Free” rides a hypnotic melodic swell and Snaith’s everyman vocals, occasional bursts of funky guitar and Owen Pallett’s violin providing a rich, velvety landscape to fall into, before it crests into an almost anxious climax: “Your love has set you free,” Snaith sings, more confidently than ever before, at odds with the tension that slides in across the monitors to close things out. The two-step girding “Julia Brightly” skits fitfully underneath pulsing synths that threaten to burst apart the skull upon peaking, while the druggy, downtempo electro of “Silver” is all murky textures and unraveling threads that seems to shift into another space every other listen. Like Snaith, the songs Caribou has conjured up here are gorgeously off-kilter, representations of a headspace at once full of overwhelming emotion and wracked by self-doubt. Upon repeated listens, Our Love
reveals itself as quite the complicated record; nothing ever stays still for very long, whether that’s Snaith’s serpentine compositions or his lyrics, so often cast in shadows as they are triumphantly lit up. In that respect, it’s a lot like every long-term relationship, a lot like the rest of Caribou’s deep and multifaceted catalog. It’s a lot like love.