Under his new moniker of Caribou Dan Snaith, a.k.a. Manitoba (his previous pre-lawsuit incarnation), continues his legacy of making constantly challenging, changing music that never gets beyond itself, that always remains immensely human. From 2001's Boards of Canada influenced 'Start Breaking My Heart', with it's jazzy take on IDM, through to 2003's glorious pysch-fest 'Up In Flames', Snaith has consistently expanded his musical horizons whilst at the same time creating some exceedingly beautiful music that always manages to stay relevant and interesting.
Opener 'Yeti' is a case in point, all pop synths and delicate singing; for the first time Snaith takes up the vocal reigns himself: 'Up In Flames' was sprinkled with Koushik's gentle harmonies. It's new ground for the band but it never sounds out of place and soon enough those familiar pounding Manitoba drums kick in, although the track doesn't sink into the trap of being overly drum heavy; something Brahminy Kite is perhaps guilty of at times (with two drummers in their live armory big beats are Caribou's signature).
Snaith recently expressed his admiration for Animal Collective and when 'A Final Warning' breaks down into a maze of percussion for a brief moment you can hear echoes of 'Sung Tongs'. But true to form the track has Snaith's stamp all over it and the vocal sample ensures we stay grounded in recognizable Caribou territory. Indeed, the jittery hip-hop of following track 'Lord Leopard' reminds us who we're dealing with; despite his love of free jazz, Snaith knows a good beat when he hears one and the album is peppered with these brief yet thoughtful interludes.
'Bees' exemplifies what Caribou are so good at; the opening riff again would have sounded out of place on any of their previous efforts yet still the band manage to make it seem like they've been doing this sort of thing for years. It's quickly followed by the scatty beats and horns so familiar from 'Up In Flames'; in between we're treated to acoustic guitars, a flute and even a police siren. And heck, if we're talking unchartered territory here, check out 'Hello Hammerheads', a folk ditty that strays close to Fairport Convention or Simon and Garfunkel. Album closer 'Barnowl' combines everything so far; blips, sweet vocals, simple riffs and so much more besides. It's the attention to detail that keeps Caribou a constantly intriguing and terribly lovable listen; Snaith acts as a master craftsman, tying together different genres and moods to create a patchwork greater than the sum of its parts.
This might not be my favourite Manitoba/Caribou offering (that accolade goes to Up In Flames, an album to get lost in), but I'm just so happy when a record comes out that gets it right; that can hand-pick the best bits of a band's back-catalogue and actually use those to keep moving forward, to create wonderful, progressive music. At the end, I remain convinced that Dan Snaith has more creativity and more downright tunes than Albert Hammond Jr has skinny ties or Johnny Borrel has ego. Mr. Snaith has successfully reinvented himself again. This is what music should be all about; I say: long live music!
8Sam Lewis's Score