Saturday 16 December 2017

Music: Caribou * * * *

Swim (City Slang)

John Meagher

John Meagher

The link between music and mathematics has exercised the minds of academics for years, with the ancient Greeks among the first to analyse the relationship between the two.

In more recent times, avant-garde composers have incorporated the likes of abstract algebra, set theory and Fibonacci numbers into their work, while bands with a yen for patterns have found expression in the sub-genre commonly known as math rock.

Dan Snaith -- the electronic whizz formerly known as Manitoba and now trading under the Caribou moniker -- grew up in a house obsessed with mathematics.

His father and mother both lectured in the subject and his sister is one of the most significant mathematicians working today.

Snaith is no slouch himself, with a degree under his belt.

The Canadian would find no conventional outlet for his talent, although he has routinely suggested that maths has informed much of the music he has made over the past 10 years, and this absorbing album -- his third as Caribou -- accentuates that theory.

Largely abandoning the lounge pop that made his last album, Andorra, a breakthrough-of-sorts, this nine-track collection offers a mixed bag of dance indie pop that lies somewhere between LCD Soundsystem, Royksopp and Animal Collective.

Opening track Odessa sets the tone for an album with its dizzying soundscapes and boundless inventiveness. There's a lot happening in this multi-layered song, but Snaith is a deft hand at texture.

Equally absorbing is the next track, Sun, another five-minute plus flight of fancy that reveals Snaith as a master of rhythm and syncopation.

Although many enjoyed Andorra, it didn't hook these ears in quite the way Swim does. This is unquestionably a more left-field album, yet very little here sounds like the product of wilful experimentation.

Like the aforementioned Animal Collective, it shows that highly innovative, risk-taking music can be irresistible. The bells and harp-laden Bowls lasts for six minutes, 21 seconds, but by its end you wish it could go on and on, constantly shifting and evolving.

Swim tails off before the end -- the short Lalibela is little more than filler -- but there's enough here to suggest that Snaith's set at Electric Picnic in September could be one of the festival's high points.

Burn it: Odessa; Sun; Bowls

Irish Independent

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