There’s a certain trait that connects many of my personal all-time favourite musicians: look at David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, Prince, Aphex Twin, Bjork or Daniel Bejar and you will see an artist unafraid – and more than capable – of performing a complete stylistic u-turn whenever the mood takes them. Someone else who shares that characteristic is Dan Snaith, the Canadian producer who records as Caribou (and occasionally as Daphni), and whilst I may not hold his work quite as dearly as that of those others mentioned previously, his habit of gracing each of his consistently brilliant full-length projects with their own distinct personality has resulted in any new release automatically shouldering its way to the front of my “most anticipated” queue. So, having tried on a number of styles over the years – pastoral electronica, free jazz, noisy psychedelia, wonky Krautrock, percussive shoegaze, stomping disco – and been in the enviable position of having each of them fit like a glove, how does Snaith follow up the propulsive avant-pop of Swim, a record that – lest we forget – topped 2010 year-end lists from esteemed publications like Mixmag and Resident Advisor? The answer, of course, is by rushing off in hot pursuit of yet another new muse, and this time around it would seem he’s been seduced in equal measure by the synthetic MOR and R&B influenced house sounds that have been straddling clubland and the mainstream on both sides of the Atlantic for the past year or so. Sixth album Our Love heads straight for the floor without so much as a preambulatory drink, opener “Can’t Do Without You” warping in on a phased loop of the titular vocal hook before quickly hitting its rhythmic stride accompanied by handclaps and clattering drums, its buzzing, circular chord sequence cleverly capturing the blurry euphoria of those classic rave climaxes and what is these days known (or so I’m reliably informed) as “the drop”. It’s a big, universal sentiment gripped in a crushing bear-hug of a track, and probably Snaith’s most accessible moment yet, as if the raw, hypnotic grooves of his Daphni album (2012’s Jiaolong) had been filtered through a Disclosure-hued lens; a crowd-pleasing club tune that would work just as well in a wet field during a 2am festival headliner’s set. If much of what follows is less immediate, it certainly benefits from the tried-and-tested slow reveal: “Silver”‘s amorphous electro throb gradually solidifying into neon-lit time-lapse funk, carrying over into the two-step strut of “All I Ever Need”; the Owen Pallett-assisted title track condensing a quarter century of dance music history – Detroit techno, acid house, space disco, UK garage, EDM – into a climactic five minute megamix. It also affords an appropriate amount of breathing space to a pair of surprisingly slinky songs that, after living with the album for a couple months, stand out as its highlights: featuring breathy vocals from fellow Ontarian Jessy Lanza, “Second Chance” shudders and pulses like an aroused electric eel, constantly waiting for a beat to kick in and turn it into a Cassie or Ciara jam, whilst “Back Home” lands somewhere between what most people thought the last Daft Punk album would sound like and what we actually got, a slice of smooth white funk-pop given a slow-building stadium techno makeover. That both songs feel right at home on a Caribou album without either sounding much like anything he has produced before is a kick, but then Snaith has never been what you would call predictable; even in the early stages of his career – even back when he was still going by the name Manitoba (before that old punk Handsome Dick slapped him with a cease-and-desist) – every new album sounded different to the last, not only new songs but new influences, new instruments, new production techniques, a whole new blueprint every time and never a look back. Amazingly, Snaith’s propensity towards the unexpected remains as undiminished as his ability to make us move, and Our Love is full of pleasant little surprises; in this day and age I’ll take as many of those as I can get.
Our Love is out October 6/7 via City Slang (EU)/ Merge (US); listen to “Can’t Do Without You” below.