Caribou - Swim

Dan Snaith continues to crack out impressive, dense and delightful indie dance rock-pop under the stage name Caribou. My first exposure to Snaith's work came via 2005's The Milk Of Human Kindness. I had heard bits and pieces of Andorra, his 2007 critically-acclaimed, award-winner as well, but three years ago, I didn't know about dance music, I didn't yet relish the way a good dance song can be both invigorating and unsettling, and with Caribou that is frequently the case. These intricate pieces of music create distinct, immovable moods, that stick with you and set your mind in a meditative, external state. When I listen to Caribou, I mean REALLY listen to it, I cease to exist in the present, and phase out into another plane. Not in the "Oh, man, we're like, totally, so high!" way, but in the "Holy shit! How can a piece of music remove me from the present so effectively that I very nearly completely forget that I'm listening to music and not feeling waves of emotional resonance washing my way..." way. How's that for a convoluted explanation? Caribou produces this sort of dance music. It's entrancing, but I wouldn't call it trance because it doesn't tow that line. It doesn't need to fulfill a genre, so much as fulfill as role as setting music, space music, time music. There are worlds created in each track, no just melodies.

This year's Swim adds to and bolsters that legacy, and very easily. It opens with the jaunty, jangly and delicious "Odessa" and then blends straight into the mind-fuckingly temporal "Sun" in which Snaith chants "sun" repeatedly over a warping track. The album then rolls back into a more conventional mentality, still musically ambitious and complicated, but with lyrics that tell a story with "Kaili." The unsettling and thoughtful "Found Out" follows, and then the bell ringing, harp stroking "Bowls" that feels like we've been lead to the dock at the edge of this world and we're waiting for our ship to board. Tracks like "Bowls" evidence the way in which Caribou is, and is not dance music. You can move to it, but sometimes, it feels like music you don't move to so much as stare to. "Hannibal" is the most conventional dance song of the second half, but even then, it doesn't require movement the way some songs might, it merely requests it, and plies any sense of comfort away with dark, bellowing horns and heavy bass beats. Perhaps this is the sound of elephants attempting to cross the Alps, moving forward into something for which they are not prepared, but that may be a bit of a stretch. The closer, "Jamelia" rewards patient listening by bringing a jungle-calypso chanting anthem as the final track. Really, Swim is about transportation, from one place to another, which requires movement, but doesn't require fleet feet so much as cautious awareness. Swim is not a dance album for dance lovers, but it is a dance album for art lovers, for appreciators of dense composition and for Caribou lovers. And it excels in each of those roles.

Score: 9.5/10

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