Album Reviews

Caribou – Our Love

(City Slang) UK release date: 6 October 2014

Caribou - Our Love Dan Snaith is on something of a roll. In the seven years since second Caribou album Andorra scooped the Polaris Music Prize, he’s garnered gushing critical acclaim on two separate occasions. His Swim LP, released in 2010, seemed to define an entire summer and set the standard in electro-psychedelia; 2012’s Jiaolong – a homebrewed album attributed to his alternative moniker Daphni – was similarly well received, its palette of joyous, rootsy house sounds at odds with that year’s “EDM barfsplosion”. We now catch up with Snaith as he attempts to join the dots between blissful shoegaze and thudding electronica; a feat he has managed so handily in the past. A rehash would not suffice, though, for the acclaimed Ontarian musician-producer – he simply set the bar far too high for that.

Happily, Our Love feels like it delivers; feel being the operative word in an effort tinged with soul from beginning to end. Can’t Do Without You – released for free in June – clasps listeners’ hands as they pass through the starting gate. A scratchy sample repeats the track’s refrain as a perfectly measured crescendo takes shape. Understated-yet-muscular percussion and bass kick in after a minute-and-a-half, and layered vocals – reverberating falsetto and modulated baritone – point the way to a closing cacophony that can only be described as exhilarating.

Having delivered eight-hour sets as a DJ, it’s no surprise that Snaith observes the time-honoured mix-tape trope of starting hard before easing off: Silver does just that, its rich, skittering soundscape melting away the four years since Swim’s release. Signature Caribou style, complete with a James Blake-like vocal delivery, settles like mist over the mix, and a chord-switching coda brings to mind the loaded futurism of 10,000Hz Legend-era Air.

So far, so good, and the momentum continues with All I Ever Need – which echoes SBTRKT‘s phenomenal Hold On – before the title track (and lead single) steals the spotlight. Its glitchy, Dabrye-like opening extrapolates into something altogether excellent: high hats and subtle strings evoke ’90s house music, a dirty bassline even bringing Inner City‘s Good Life to mind. Dive rounds out the album’s first half by exhibiting the other side to the Caribou coin, its two-minute delve into ambient post-dubstep (yes, that’s a thing) caressing the listener’s senses.

Pacing, perhaps unsurprisingly, proves to be no problem. The bright, delicious, slightly off-kilter swagger of Second Chance – featuring Jessy Lanza – is arguably the closest Snaith comes to chart territory, though he resists the temptation to crescendo; he instead alludes to the idea, its implied existence paying off in spades. Mars makes a similar virtue of patience, its long percussive precursor gradually augmented by flute licks and subsonic bass. Chord-pedal tones lend track some emotional resonance, but not until its closing passage.

The stage is then set for Our Love’s closing pair, which turn out to be a little less accessible than their preceding trackmates. The realisation dawns that the LP has been relatively obstruction-free to this point – pulsating lights and irresistible beats at every turn – before Snaith decides to throws up a roadblock or two, asking more of his audience. Back Home in particular stands out as love-weary and soul-bearing (“Where did it all go wrong? / What it is is what we’ve chosen”). Menacing minor chords intimate intimacy, and a beautifully-fuzzy finale hints that this is what we’ve been heading towards all along. It’s a smart, attentive-demanding progression – within the song and throughout the album as a whole – that deftly captures various stages of love’s cycle. With added synths.

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