Dan Snaith has a PhD in mathematics. That bookish pedigree, however, is complemented by a comparable knowledge of electronic dance music. And when the two subjects combine, Caribou bursts forth – the kind of brilliantly introspective, blippy dance music you’d expect a mathematician to make. Swim is Snaith’s latest release to embody that spirit, a slightly dark twist on the usual Caribou equation. Full of whirring beats and shadowy textures, Swim evokes the image of a man sitting on the curb outside a dance party, contemplating life. The dancefloor bass is more subtle, the clear pop tones more distorted, the themes a bit more profound.
Album opener “Odessa” is an accessible entry-point; crafted around a repetitive Snaith chanting “she can say, she can say, she can say,” the song is immediately familiar. On Swim’s next track, Snaith’s influences begin to come into focus – “Sun” sounds like Kraftwerk covering ‘60s psych, produced by Four Tet. As the album moves along, that blend continues to develop, reflecting the amalgam of styles impressed upon Snaith’s records. RJD2, Bell Orchestre, Prefuse 73, the list of associations goes on and on. Still, Caribou takes those artists places they haven’t been, melding Swim into a sort of family reunion of electronic dance.
The buoyant pulse of “Leave House” is followed by the dry clatter of “Hannibal” in what makes up a nearly perfect eleven and a half minute run near the end of the album. “Leave House” contemplates loneliness and separation backed by the beat Hot Chip dreams of, while “Hannibal” dances around affairs over foreboding horns. The songs, divergent in style, somehow flow together, working perfectly side-by-side. The more you listen to the couplet – and the album as a whole – the more depth is revealed. Swim is paradoxically full of morose club tracks, which I think is part of the album’s brilliance. Looking for off-the-beaten-track electronic music with some bounce in its step? Put on Swim and disregard the lyrics. But just know that when you’re ready to descend a little deeper, Swim will be waiting for you. Words by Chris Barth.
77 — [Rating Scale]