Exclusively for ATP New York, Caribou will perform as Caribou Vibration Ensemble, with a 4 piece horn section, 4 drummers and a choir and guests that include Marshall Allen (Sun Ra Arkestra leader and Arkestra member for over 50 years), Kieran Hebden (Four Tet/Fridge/Kieran Hebden & Steve Reid), Koushik (Stones Throw Records), John Schmersal (Enon, Brainiac), Kathryn Bint (One Little Plane), Ahmed Gallab (Sinkane) and more...
“a perfect slice of bedroom psychedelia from someone for whom melody and emotion are ten times as important as collectible obscurity”
Featuring guest vocals from Jeremy Greenspan (Junior Boys) on ‘She’s The One’, this album marks the first time, Snaith sings on every song and invites us into this most personal and emotional body of work. It also finds Snaith with two new record labels, City Slang and Merge Records (home to Arcade Fire) for the USA.
“Basically all the songs that I really love are ‘lump in your throat’ pop songs,” Snaith offers as his secret manifesto for the album. “I still can’t really listen to ‘This Will Be Our Year’ by The Zombies because it turns me into a big cry-baby. But it’s all about trying to recreate that feeling. Music either has that effect or it’s bullshit I’ve decided in the last year. So I wanted no bullshit on this album. Turned out that was incredibly hard,” he laughs, “but I wanted every track and every part of every track to come as close to that emotional precipice as I could possibly manage.”
Previously, The Milk Of Human Kindness (released in 2005 on The Leaf Label), saw the Caribou live band (two drummers, guitar, keyboards, vocals and hotchpotch instruments accompanied by the hyper-colourful projections of acclaimed Dublin-based animators Delicious 9), playing 140 shows across North America, UK, Europe, the Balkans, Taiwan, mainland China, Australia and Japan. Opening for the Super Furry Animals, Caribou was playing to ever increasing audiences on tours with compatriots Junior Boys and The Russian Futurists. It was an affirmation that Snaith’s fanbase had remained loyal and what’s more, continued to grow, after the 2003 lawsuit issued by rock relic Handsome ‘Dick’ Manitoba, effected Snaith’s artist name change to Caribou.
After a hectic time on the road, during which he also managed to complete his PhD in Maths, Snaith luxuriated in having all the time in the world, creating and destroying entire imaginary musical cosmoses to find the perfect ingredients of Andorra. The small matter of marrying his long time sweetheart, learning to play Guchin (a stringed Dulcimer type of instrument) in China, taking up the ancient art of trampolining… it can safely be said that Dan Snaith can’t stand still for too long and has an eyewateringly severe work ethic.
The album title’s inspiration is a mythical, tiny country wedged between France and Spain amongst the Pyrenees. “I expected it to be some sort of lost, magical place full of a history, where a defiantly isolated people lived romantic lives,” Snaith muses. “It certainly looks like that when you first drive into it, but then all of a sudden a town that’s essentially the world’s most crass duty free shop appears out of nowhere! Andorra – the idealised place in my head – became a home for, the romanticized characters in the album’s songs.”
Snaith wrote 670 unique music tracks (this is no exaggeration) distilling the essence into nine exquisite songs, and he plays almost all the instruments on the album, drums, guitars, keyboards, bass, vocals, flutes, percussion and trumpet. And Guchin. Each of Snaith’s three albums is highly distinctive, and Andorra is no exception. Start Breaking My Heart (2001) rivaled the likes of Boards of Canada for superb melodies and a yearning sense of nostalgia, while Up In Flames (2003) opened up a bright, heavy and happy cacophony of riotous, ecstatic sound, leading to the day-glo psychedelic pop of The Milk of Human Kindness.
Andorra, however, is like day for night in terms of the sheer scope and widescreen sweep of musical ambition and imagination. “I spent all my time pacing around making up melodies, it was an intense, marathon process, trying to get the musi cal ideas to fit together,” Snaith recalls. “I literally rewrote the verse for ‘Sandy’ over five days, I kept writing it over and over again about 150 times. What can I say?” he laughs. “I’m a control freak!”
The result of his labours is an absolute master class in freeform pop, incorporating classic love trysts, betrayals, swoons and flutters drawn over nine divine love songs where Snaith’s imagination runs riot.
And it’s not just Snaith’s imagination involved here; director Werner Herzog’s feature films were also an unlikely inspiration.
“What captivates me so much about Herzog is that behind the story he's telling, you are also glimpsing into this massive imagination of his which is very much evident if unarticulated. I feel the same is true in music – music, like film, is more than just storytelling. The story that a song tells can be elevated above what the lyrics hint at. For the past year all these jangled parts, songs, ideas have been piling up inside my head and somehow the idea of the album is to wrap them all around pop songs, so that they point towards something bigger living inside my imagination.”
‘Melody Day’, (the single released July 30th) doesn’t waste any time in thundering out the trap. Snaith has created a melody that is distinctive yet familiar; euphoric, yet melancholy. “Most of my songs try to achieve that mix and this one perhaps gets closer than any other.” (If you have not heard the glorious re-imagining of this track by Dan’s old spar Kieran Hebden, please get in touch. Glorious in a word.)
Album highlight and preciously layered ‘She’s The One’ was written and recorded when Jeremy Greenspan passed through London for a few days while on tour with Junior Boys late in 2006. “Jeremy wrote the lyrics for ‘She’s The One’, it’s about a guy singing about his girlfriend who treats him badly and he can’t see that. It’s a classic pop song set up.” Such a simple gem on the surface, but listen for the wondrous way that Snaith nestles the percussion and descending strings together to create an effortlessly brilliant tune.
Another aspect of Snaith’s production is his sense of Technicolor. One of the best examples of this can be found within ‘Desiree’. “I had the chorus in my head for ages, but I wanted it to be right. Finding each little string bit and putting it all together bit by bit by bit. I had drums on there originally but when it just became strings and voice it sounded so much better. I’m super, super proud of the chorus. That rush into the chorus, I love that.”
Ever the one to wrestle a rabbit from the hat, Snaith flips things dramatically in the final stages of this wonderful piece. Keeping with the mood, but messing with the winning formula, ‘Irene’ deviates from the joyousness of previous tracks to a hopelessness and sadness in the vocals, with the melody falling into deranged hysteria which segues into the album’s finale and ultimately winning track, ‘Niobe’. The finale builds and builds but never releases that underlying tension. “It’s a pop song just like any of the others but one that’s been stretched out until it’s almost falling apart, there’s always a sense that the music is about to disintegrate.”
From the opening propulsion of ‘Melody Day’ to the drifting trance of ‘Niobe’, Snaith once again stands alone as a giant talent, who fully understands the power of experimental leftfield pop and paws at its parameters each and every time. Welcome back Caribou.
His longtime collaborator, award-winning, Tate Modern-collected photographer/artist Jason Evans again completed the artwork for Andorra. While on the live front, Caribou is now expanded into a quartet – drummer, bass player/singer and guitarist, with Dan Snaith on drums/guitar/keys and vocals.