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CARIBOU Fun With Repetition

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“For me, a novice mistake when trying to make music that works in a club is trying to change it too much. The best thing you can do is let it sit there, or change it only every once in a while.”

Last seen ’round these parts in 2011, Caribou will perform at St Jerome’s Laneway Festival on Sunday, February 8, at Fremantle’s Esplanade Reserve & West End. LACHLAN KANONIUK reports.

Released mid-2014, standing out in a overwhelmingly fertile crop of A-grade electronic full-lengths released in the same period, Our Love exceeded lofty expectations laden on a follow-up to Caribou’s landmark LP Swim, glistening with intimacy, radiant in togetherness.

It was a relative wait, with UK-based Canadian Dan Snaith carving out a slight divergence with other solo project Daphni, alongside his newfound role as a father. Speaking from his London home over the holiday season, Snaith explains the emotional investment of Our Love.

The reason it took four years had much more to do with other things going on in my life, having a daughter, I made the Daphni record, did a bunch of DJing, I toured constantly after Swim came out. It didn’t take me longer to make this record compared to previous records, it just took me a while to get around to it, with so much going on. I was dying to make it by the time we finished touring, just dying to make this Caribou music again,” he says.

“I’m not very good at having a sense of what I’m going to do in advance, it’s more getting my hands dirty and actually making music, and feeling what my music is going to sound like or be about. The only thing I get a sense of, accurately, is this affection when Swim came out, people talking about what it meant to them. That was my first angle for making another Caribou record after Swim. I never really considered that at all, before that.”

The ascendance of Daphni, Snaith’s peripheral club-ready project, since the release of Swim has solidified a rekindled fondness for the dancefloor, an aspect not exactly shied away from within the realm of Caribou.

There doesn’t have to be a firm distinction between the two for me at all, really. There is a very different method of working and intention, which is why they end up sounding different. The Daphni stuff, I never intended for that to be released. It was just made to be played in the DJ sets after people saw me in the context of dance music again and started getting offered DJ sets again, and I wanted to have more music to play. Not necessarily my own, but that was the easiest way to make sure I knew people wouldn’t have heard it before, getting a track the way I wanted it to sound in the club.

“That’s why I made that record, it wasn’t intended to be an album, it wasn’t intended to be released in the first place. It was made spontaneously, really quickly, not laboured over in the way the Caribou message is. I always have to sit with Caribou for a long, long time. Daphni music is intentionally functional, it’s meant to be music that people can dance to in the club. Some of the Caribou tracks have that functionality to a certain degree, but it’s not what I’m aiming for, it’s not a requirement. Caribou tracks can be dancefloor-oriented, or not at all. They can be either.”

Caribou exhibits a canny ability to toy with repetition, a vital component within dance, in a compelling fashion, orchestrating deft, underhanded swells. He explains repetition has been a constant throughout his entire life: “The first real challenge I had, when I felt I really developed my current sensibility about music was when I went from listening to horrendous progressive rock, where virtuosity is valued and repetition is definitely not, when I was 15, 16, then to hear all the records and types of music where repetition is a primary element.

“For me, a novice mistake when trying to make music that works in a club is trying to change it too much. The best thing you can do is let it sit there, or change it only every once in a while. Our Love is a lot about being as concise as possible, getting these ideas in there in very short periods. People ask, ‘Why isn’t the album version of Can’t Do Without You longer?’ asking why Julia Brightly, the short little track on the album, is so short. It’s about being part of the larger narrative, rather than the tracks standing so much on their own.”

Our Love is radiant in its densely layered emotion, searching deeper than the sheer, sometimes cheap, euphoria present throughout popular electronic music in recent years. The intent, he says, was to pack as much emotion from his life into it as possible: “I’m in no way claiming to be in this tradition, but the way I see that being reconciled is through the tradition of dance music comes from soul music through to disco music, where people have a superficial understanding about the most popular, super, super happy music, but a lot of it is very bittersweet,” he says.

Marginalised groups expressing themselves in that space, that they could escape from the difficulties, but they could put that in the music as well. With house music, it’s very much the same thing. That’s also more general outside of dance music, they have been my favourite songs, the songs that are simultaneously joyous and melancholic, that blend, that bittersweetness. That’s something I think music does so well as an art form – compared to film, poetry, visual art – it synthesises those two opposites. That’s something that’s so interesting to me. Our lives don’t feel like one note, it always has things and its opposite right next to them. I wanted to make music that had these things, these contradictions next to each other all the time.”

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