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Caribou - Swim CD Review Artist:
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Merge Records
April 20th, 2010
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Dan Snaith’s inspired, oddball underwater disco makes for a beautifully complicated headtrip on Swim with a fluid, ever-evolving sound mix that slips and fades and evades in gorgeous ways and endearing vocals tethered to severely atmospheric instrumentation. Awash in here-and-then-disappeared reverb, Snaith’s wispy everyman mumbles recall Arthur Russell while a guest slot for Born Ruffians’ Luke Lalonde on album closer “Jamelia” yields a buoyant electro anthem, blenderized and water-logged, that crystallizes the joy of music-making with its melodic catharsis and bubbling synths.

Snaith’s psychedelic tendencies, so nicely realized on 2003’s Up In Flames album (as Manitoba) and his subsequent Caribou releases, inform Swim’s instrumental flourishes as he constructs underground disco out of woodwinds, cut-n-paste vocal snippets, bells, chimes, acoustic guitars and minimalist synthesizers tweaked and twisted into idiosyncratic musical personalities. “Odessa” is a murky and mysterious dance-centric concoction with scratchy synth stabs, bounding toms and otherworldly yelps that bounce and echo. The winding vocals repeat and evolve, acting like just another instrument by capitalizing upon the rhythmic and melodic capabilities of the human voice. Each sound ebbs and flows, establishing the water metaphors that surface throughout each subsequent track: instruments wash back and forth across the channels, pitches shift and recede, elusive words slink across the mix like fluorescent micro-organisms threading in and out of neon coral. “Kaili” is a bleary, midnight lament, streaked-through with a lingering brass and sax interplay that just barely manages to hold itself together. “Leave House” is a crisp sonic poem, strung upon an evaporating bassline and crunchy percussives. Snaith’s vocals momentarily leave the ground when he adopts a hazy, afternoon-funk intonation, singing, “Don’t tell me what I should do / I’d make sure if I were you,” his bare melodies all the more enticing because of their slight imperfections and immediacy. The twisty, chiming swagger of “Bowls” and the milky house grooves of “Hannibal” sound like an indie band trying its hand at rave music and coming up with something magically off and innovative. Swim is dazzling and challenging and the kind completely immersive listening experience that could make dancefloors interesting again.

Favorite Track: “Jamelia”

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Reviewer Bio - Christopher j Ewing is a writer and filmmaker living in Los Angeles with a girl and a designer dog. He is in a band by himself, has a myspace account at and a production company at ( for freelance film, video and journalism work.

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