Dan Snaith’s renowned projects under the name Caribou are renowned. Resurfacing from the DJ depths, Caribou produces a wonderfully winding series of tracks that slot together in new album, Suddenly.
After five years away following the release of Our Love, Caribou’s teased return was greeted with warmth and wariness as dedicated fans wondered whether he would retain his classic style or branch into a new artistic tone. However, the trademark boxy reverb and warm undertones on the pre-release ‘You and I’ assured us we’re not falling out of our comfort zone entirely. The break two and a half minutes into the track incorporates an invited change in pace, tone and layered vocals that prove that Suddenly was not set to be a sombre The xx album remake, but a multifaceted and vibrantly intriguing collection to behold.
The opening track ‘Sister’ is a highlight in itself, with the melancholic lyrics “if you want to change it you must break it // rip it up and something new will grow”. The opening beats are akin to transparent raindrops, rhythmically cascading towards a growing puddle that spills onto the album’s artwork, the size growing with each pulsation to mimic the build in the track.
‘Sunny’s Time’ is a DJ’s transition dream. Peaceful piano intuitively conflicts with the heavy spoken vocals, the harsh contrast spilling into an erratic overcross between ivory keys and sounds at the other end of charcoal controls. In contrast, ‘New Jade’, ‘Lime’ and ‘Like I Loved You’ have a more pacey start. The jazz laden undertones skew the electronica foundation, and the interspersal of male and female vocals that underride the main melody are always a surprise, despite being present in almost every track.
‘Home’ is a beautifully conducted track, the dualistic vocals coasting alongside a myriad of musical layers of percussion, guitar and one would guess woodwind. The fact you can’t quite tell makes this track all the more memorable.
Sitting together like unidentical twins are the tracks ‘Never Come Back’ and ‘Filtered Grand Piano’. This transition from a dance floor classic to an opening that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Bikram Yoga class typifies the wonderful capabilities of what music can be with Caribou at the helm.
What I’m after next from Caribou is a widespread collaborative album, as ‘Magpie’ is simply written with the tonal uniqueness of Bombay Bicycle Club. However, this doesn’t last long as ‘Ravi’ transports you to a summer festival field, advert ready beauties cascading around you as the track perfectly cuts between scenes and sounds.
In the end, ‘Cloud Song’ is the finale that brings Caribou back to basics. The bouncing synths transcend tone and create tantalizing sonic textures, overlapping and overwhelming the subtle vocals to a point where you almost forget they are there. Events in Snaith’s personal life heavily influenced the emotional emphasis of this album, yet in all their transparency this album is a beautiful and elegant ode to how experiences can propel you forwards. That in itself dictates the importance of artists like Caribou, whose unique ear for electronica continues the legacy of masterful musical compositions that don’t rely on vocals to become marketable.
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Image courtesy of Thomas Nekum.