Caribou's fifth album is a stunning work of fluidity and depth.
In my interview with CARIBOU for DUMMY during March (READ IT HERE), I mentioned that ‘Swim’ was an album that ‘sounds best at night’. Probably because of what I was doing at the time; listening to the album at night and writing an article during what seemed like a never-ending winter. And it did sound great. Its mysticism summed up the dankness of those evenings. As I sat in my lamp-lit room in tracksuit bottoms and slippers, staring at my laptop over the vapour of a tea mug thinking how to best convey this absurdly creative musician, the darkness that permeates the album reflected the darkness in my room – my shadowy introspection.
Now when I listen to the album at the end of April, the sun has arrived. And weirdly, it feels different. Essentially, the record is the same. It still echoes and crescendos in all the same places. Odessa still clanks like a DFA-inspired version of the Terminator II theme music, Dan Snaith’s voice still hauntingly invokes Arthur Russell and the openness of the record – its acoustic space – still feels free.
But the difference is that, now the sun is shining, it no longer reminds me of that same solitary place; those nights when you feel as if no one else in the world but you is alive. When mist hangs around street lamps and the surrounding calmness is unexplainable yet complete. That’s what ‘Swim’ soundtracked perfectly. Even Sun had this cosmic, nebulous quality. It wasn’t earthly – like, sun beds, summer’s day parks and stuff – but something otherworldly and futuristic. Some sort of orbital journey pulled by unstoppable gravity; a euphoric awakening, eerie and faintly disconcerting.
That is not to say that Sun now represents a sun-drenched beach, but rather the nostalgic memory of one. Before, Hannibal reminded me of running through a forest at midnight. Now I envision trekking across uncut grass on a sun-scorched day, my vision shrouded in orange. Altered surroundings have brought out the brightness of this album. Its shimmering heat waves and stodgy humidity.
Snaith says ‘Swim’ is about swimming (inspired by the swimming lessons his wife bought him). The movement of water and its impact – both physically and emotionally. That the album reminds me of something else is arbitrary. The kaleidoscopic experience is a personal one – as fluid in subject as it is in substance.
Maybe when the seasons change again, the album will sound completely different altogether. Some hidden nuance will reveal itself and surprise me. But that’s what constitutes a truly great album, right? Depth to change shape, infer something new depending on the state of one’s own world – inner and outer. Perhaps this is because of Caribou’s diversity. While shaking hands with a long line-up of today’s best electronic producers – his mate Four Tet, Electro-step pioneer Gold Panda and the frenzied jazz of Flying Lotus – Snaith has reached another level with ‘Swim’. Ten year’s of musical ploughing has allowing him to roll together so many genres – Disco, Jazz, Techno, Krautrock, Electronica, House, Prog and Psyche-Rock – into something that is relevant, illusory and at times brilliant. Ultimately, ‘Swim’ is a timeless album that can sound different on any listen. It just depends where and who you are at that moment in time.