About a year ago, Caribou mastermind Dan Snaith couldn’t swim. On a good day, he might get a decent doggy paddle going but, really, he could barely stay afloat. All that changed when his wife got him swimming lessons for Christmas. “Then I became completely obsessed with it and now I swim constantly,” he says. “The only times I really left the house in the past year were either to go out to a club late at night, or, in the middle of making music during the day, I’d go to swim every day. It was important to get some distance, and ideas would percolate around in my head as I was swimming away. So it seemed like a theme that was appropriate.”
With its absorption of club culture sounds weaved within subtle pop frameworks, Swim is Caribou’s masterpiece – the record he’s wanted to bring to fruition for as long as he’s been making music. A Canadian from small-town Ontario now based in England, Snaith has been a leading figure in electronic music over the past decade. A mathematics scholar and an ingenious multi-instrumentalist/composer, he surprised critics and fans with 2007’s Andorra, a brilliant, electro-tinged pop breakthrough with a timeless grace that made most year-end ‘“Best of”’ lists and won Canada’s prestigious Polaris Music Prize. After the startling infectiousness of Andorra, Swim is a more complex, multi-layered affair – ripe with fascinating rhythms, instrumentation, and vocals (including those of Born Ruffians’ Luke Lalonde, who appears on “Jamelia”) – that becomes more alluring with each listen. And it’s got Caribou floating.
“The real substance of the sound of the record for me is this idea of making dance music that consists of liquid elements,” Snaith explains. “Rather than sounding metallic and rigid, everything is washing around you while you’re listening to it – from one ear to another – but also the pitch is oscillating up and down, and each instrument is going in and out of tune with everything else. Sounds are emerging and disappearing, like everything is made out of water. Dance music is very much associated with very crisp, metallic, clean sounds. I like this idea of dance music that just washes around with fluidity.
“In the past, oftentimes part of the excitement of making music for me was hearing someone else’s music – some long-forgotten record from the past – and deciphering how to make those sounds and incorporate those ideas into something of my own," says Snaith. "This record is much less a product of its influences. I think this is the record that I’m most proud of because it’s the most ‘me’ in the way things sound; I feel like I have my own vocabulary now. So much of contemporary music is soaked in referencing this or that. I wanted people to put the record on and not be able to say, ‘This sounds like so-and-so.’ I want people to say, ‘This sounds like Dan!’ It’s what everybody wants – to have their fingerprint on the music they’re making. I feel like I’ve achieved that to a greater extent than I have in the past, and that’s exciting.”
Up in Flames (Special Edition) (2006)
Marino (DVD, 2005)
The Milk of Human Kindness (2005)
Up in Flames (2003)
Start Breaking My Heart (EP, 2001)