Our Love

Dan Snaith’s multi-monikered career, not to mention the Ph.D. in mathematics and a Polaris prize for Caribou’s Andorra album along the way, is the type of thing that almost seems like it shouldn’t exist in a time where dreams are deferred and no source of income seems stable enough. Just giving him a gold star for nearly fifteen years steady musical service isn’t the answer, yet news of his first album as Caribou in four years almost caused paroxysms of happiness among fans. It’s a subtler pleasure here though; something that shows where he’s been to some degree but also that he’s never quite what he is ‘supposed’ to be – his music never quite fits into an expected box, but exists in its own space.

And what is that space this time around? Our Love definitely shows elements of his Daphni work from a couple of years ago, where the beats suddenly charge up and everything is much more immediate. Examples of this include the moment where the title track suddenly eases into a taut bass pattern and quick hi-hat/acid pulse that gets more frenetic as it goes, and the simultaneously serene and high-speed flow of ‘Mars’. But this feels more like an anthology of situations and elements shaped by electronics and performance than a soundtrack. For an artist who just started to emerge when Kid A resulted in a flurry of new tags and cliches, suppositions about what introspective electronic music would be like–like it hadn’t already existed in many guises before then–Snaith feels much more like a comfortable older neighbour to the stream of artists this decade, many of them female musicians, often openly questioning gender suppositions, who push for particular extremities. Our Love certainly is not an upending of an avant garde, nor is it immediate/in your face pop punching through stalled structures, instead it’s a quietly pondering, still expressive voice in the head.

Or voices, even though mostly there’s just his own softly treated vocals throughout. But the feeling of the album is that the songs connect almost as ruminations in the middle of an insanely busy club night, thus the more Daphni nodding moments, or recalled after the fact. The music almost feels like trying to recall something that happened and left an impact, like experiences shape perceptions and emotions as expressed in electronic elements and fragments repurposed. All of which sounds a little high-flying, perhaps. But Snaith’s own thoughtfully inspiring approaches over time encourage that kind of a reading. The opening ‘Can’t Do Without You’ is a burst of emotional sentiment that’s simply that lyric delivered in two differing ways throughout the song, letting the slow bass-heavy drone and build that emerges feel alternately majestic and threatening as one might wish. Meanwhile, Jessy Lanza’s lead vocal turn on ‘Second Chance’ almost feels like another protagonist in another story, perhaps in a smaller room next door to the main floor moving through a blissed out but still slightly frayed arrangement.

There’s also something that feels like an unconscious response rather than a deliberate one to efforts like Random Access Memories, only instead of trying to evoke some sort of lost LA studio paradise of ‘real’ disco, it’s more like the stirring sequencers of an all electronic approach from the time reemerge in new ways here, whether it’s the sweet turn and progression of ‘Silver’ or the sudden bursts and fanfares on the title track or the surge of power evident on the penultimate track ‘Back Home’, especially when the arrangement moves into an absolutely beautiful break. Add in some further touches from past collaborator Owen Pallett throughout to make everything even more engaging, and Our Love isn’t an explosion of delight so much as it is an affirmation of the moment, in many different forms.

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