Caribou: Our Love
Until last week, my awareness of Caribou consisted seeing them a couple of times at festivals and putting them on my ever expanding ‘I must remember to look them up when I get home’ list. I made the fortunate decision of picking up Our Love and have been struggling to take it off my proverbial record player, and by that I mean my Steve Jobs Music Box Classic, ever since.
The man behind the curtain, Dan Snaith, is intriguing in the respect that he doesn’t fit the musician archetype in the slightest – a teetotaller with a doctorate in maths, he reportedly keeps his band entertained on tour by inviting lecturers onto their bus to give presentations on Marxism and economics. Hendrix he ain’t, but boy can the man make music.
The album opens with ‘Can’t Do Without You’, maybe the most straightforward offering of the collection, initially adhering to a deceptively simple house structure, the bass synth builds the track into a gorgeous Bonobo-esque maelstrom which lets you know you are in for a ride.
A key component of the record is subversion – many of the songs start on a road well travelled and end up in a bizarre cul de sac. ‘Our Love’ starts as a deceptively simple club anthem, before the detuned vocals build a poly-rhythm of their own, and bursts of orchestral flourishes, courtesy of the avant-garde pop nutter Owen Pallet, used so sparingly you could have almost have imagined it. ‘Second Chance’, the ear bending key change sends ripples down the song, turning what could be 90s Christina Aguilera into a weird breed of wonk pop.
There are a couple of curious instrumentals, like ‘Dive’, which is reminiscent of Purity Ring’s brand of post-RnB (again my own nomenclature) and ‘Julia Brightly’, which sounds like it would belong on the soundtrack if Danny Boyle made a good film again. These interludes that may on first listen may sound like a wasted opportunity, add colour to the album on repeat listens.
One of the triumphs of the record is that at moments (such as in ‘Mars’ and the closer ‘Your Love Will Set You Free’) it sounds like a 70s proggy afrobeat demon playing different film soundtracks at the same time, yet somehow it never loses cohesion or purpose.
My personal highlight is ‘Back Home’, which channels the simple modern soul songwriting of Jungle and the pulsating synths of Jai Paul and mixes them in what David Brent would call the melting pot to glorious effect. Here Mr / Dr Snaith has somehow turned something private and confessional into something warm and celebratory, which is no mean feat.
Using the official Phoria rating system as created by this fine young man, I give this shimmering spectral sex-pop album four Mickeys!