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A Dan of many parts

The programmed beats of Dan Snaith’s band Caribou

Hazel Sheffield | September/October 2014

By the time Dan Snaith gave up maths for music, it had taken him from his native Ontario to Imperial College London to study for a PhD. Over the next decade, it was as if the precision maths demands sent his music in the opposite direction, towards warmth and looseness. His early work, under the name Manitoba, sketched songs from the urban sounds of two-step and 
garage. As Caribou, he turned Sixties psychedelia into swollen pop, winning Canada’s prestigious Polaris prize for “Andorra” (2007) and a spot on many end-of-year lists for the watery landscapes of “Swim” (2010). Then he changed course, stitching samples from old African records to hard-edged beats as Daphni.

As he told the Quietus in 2012, maths at its most theoretical can feel like fumbling for the right formula in the dark. He likened the experience to the quest of the DJ, searching for the strange magic of the moment when one song casts a spell on a dancing crowd. The next Caribou album, “Our Love”, finds that magic in new places. It’s in the rush halfway through “Can’t Do Without You” and the ebullient Moog synths on the final third of “Silver”, the repeated motifs drifting between tracks like “Dive” and “Second Chance” and the mad experimentalism of “Julia Brightly”, an unstructured two-minute edit of zooming synths. Together, these songs recap the themes of Snaith’s career to form a thesis: on how to turn programmed beats into much more than the sum of their parts. ~ Hazel Sheffield

Our Love City Slang Oct 6th (Europe); Merge, Oct 7th (North America)
Caribou on tour Europe, Oct 8th to Nov 8th; North America, Nov 10th-24th


ROCK AT A GLANCE

Pharrell (European tour, to Oct 16th). Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”, Ed Sheeran’s “Sing”, his own “Happy”—everything Pharrell Williams touches turns to platinum discs. Mass singalongs guaranteed, but will the merch stall be selling his towering hat?

Lady Gaga (European tour, to Nov 24th). A big talent who rather needs to show it. Her new album, “Cheek to Cheek” (out now), is a set of jazz duets with Tony Bennett.

Pink Floyd (album, Oct). Rick Wright has joined Syd Barrett at the great gig in the sky, and Roger Waters remains solo. But the Floyd, now a duo, can still pull a rabbit from their hat. This album is “mainly ambient and instrumental music” left over from the 1994 “Division Bell” sessions. Now called “The Endless River”, it was once known as “The Big Spliff”—surely the perfect Floyd title.

Alt-J (album, out now). These four mates from Leeds university won many fans with the sparky cerebro-pop of “An Awesome Wave”. Now they are three, as their bass player, Gwil Sainsbury, didn’t take to life in the limelight.

Fleetwood Mac (North American tour, to Dec 20th). Never trust a rock star who claims to be retiring. After 16 years pottering around at home, Christine McVie returns, aged 71, to her rightful place at the microphone. and the keyboard. Well, she did write “Don’t Stop”. ~ Tim de Lisle

 

Intelligent Tunes: six good songs to slip into your pocket

Conor Oberst: Desert Island Questionnaire Piercing observations from the most prolific man in Portland, Oregon.

John Fullbright: High Road Young country singer who packs a lethal punch. "Songs" is out now; European tour Aug 29th.

David Gray: Last Summer A folk tune that speaks louder than words—so it gradually discards them, to powerful effect.

Robyn Hitchcock: To Turn You On The Soft Boys meet Roxy Music on a deliciously woozy cover.

Cold Specks: Let Loose the Dogs Al Spx's haunting voice at its desolate best.

Out of the Blue: Hips Don't Lie  Shakira with added wit from an all-male acapella group of Oxford students.

All songs at iTunes and Spotify (enter IntLifeMag)

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