From its humble beginnings with the theft of a sampler gathering dust in his high school's music department, through four acclaimed albums and an absurd collision with a litigious wrestler,
Dan Snaith's musical life has followed anything but a predictable trajectory.
As hinted at by the aforementioned penchant for abducting musical electronics, Dan began recording music in the solitary environs of rural Ontario, Canada when only 14 years old - ‘Before I could drive, and living in the middle of nowhere in the countryside, there weren't many options aside from practicing music, playing music and recording music all in complete isolation', Dan explains - but it wasn't until the release of his debut album ‘Start Breaking My Heart' - then under the artist name Manitoba - on the UK based Leaf Label that anyone noticed. His debut was praised worldwide as a unique statement in electronic music, fusing hopscotch melodies and filtered electronic sunshine with influences as diverse as the spiritual free jazz of the early 70s, North American indie music of the 90s and the post acid house UK techno.
The first twist in Snaith's musical narrative came when, having moved to London, UK in late 2001 to pursue a mathematics PhD at Imperial College, University of London, Snaith confounded expectations by creating ‘Up In Flames' an album made by the same solitary means as its predecessor - pieced together both of home recordings and samples of obscure records - but which differed spectacularly in result. ‘Up In Flames' was an incendiary miasma of psychedelic rock and wall of sound production that belied the cramped confines in which it was recorded. Released by Domino Recording Co. in North America and The Leaf Label in the rest of the world, it took Snaith's music to new heights of exposure and critical praise.
This album was accompanied by a reinvention of Snaith's stage persona. From electronic performer and DJ, he re-emerged with a three piece band characterized by the twin pummelling of two drum kits, frenetic rotation between instruments as varied as the theremin and the flutophone, the day-glo videos of Dublin's Delicious 9 animation team and bear masks. Snaith and band toured throughout North America, Europe, Australia and Asia during 2003 and 2004, winning fans and sonically pulverizing audiences in equal measure.
In late 2004, in the most unexpected turn yet, Caribou was born out of the ashes of lawsuit enacted by ageing punk rocker Handsome ‘Dick' Manitoba. In surely one of the most bizarre trademark lawsuits in recent years Handsome ‘Dick' sued Snaith for unlawfully using the name Manitoba - a name incidentally shared by one of Canada's ten provinces. Finding himself limited by the high-priced realities of trademark law, Snaith opted to take the high road and change his nom de rock to Caribou.
Unperturbed, Snaith returned to the studio and in spring 2005 released his most articulate and developed album to date in ‘The Milk of Human Kindness'. Inspired by the primal performances of bands such as Lightning Bolt and the Boredoms and by the motorik propulsion of the Silver Apples and early 70s Krautrock bands such as Neu!, Popol Vuh and Can, it was ideally suited for live performance and in the ensuing nine months Caribou traversed the globe playing over 140 shows from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Guangzhou, China and nearly everywhere in between.
Following this period of exhaustive and exhausting touring Snaith returned home and for the first time, with his studies now completed and a bona fide Dr. of Mathematics, devoted himself entirely to recording. Entirely that is, barring weekly trampoline lessons. The result of a year buried in this compulsive and obsessive musical hibernation is 2007's ‘Andorra' - released by Merge Records in North America and City Slang in the rest of the world.
About a year ago, Caribou mastermind Dan Snaith couldn't swim. On a good day, he might get a decent doggy paddle going but, really, he could barely stay afloat. All that changed when his wife got him swimming lessons for Christmas. "Then I became completely obsessed with it and now I swim constantly," he says. "The only times I really left the house in the past year were either to go out to a club late at night or, in the middle of making music during the day, I'd go to swim every day. It was important to get some distance, and ideas would percolate around in my head as I was swimming away. So it seemed like a theme that was appropriate."
With its absorption of club culture sounds weaved within subtle pop frameworks, Swim is Caribou's masterpiece-the record he's wanted to bring to fruition for as long as he's been making music. A Canadian from small-town Ontario now based in England, Snaith has been a leading figure in electronic music over the past decade. A mathematics scholar and an ingenious multi-instrumentalist/composer, he surprised critics and fans with 2007's Andorra, a brilliant, electro-tinged pop breakthrough with a timeless grace that made most year-end "Best of" lists and won Canada's prestigious Polaris Music Prize. After the startling infectiousness of Andorra, Swim is a more complex, multi-layered affair-ripe with fascinating rhythms, instrumentation, and vocals (including those of Born Ruffians' Luke Lalonde, who appears on "Jamelia")-that becomes more alluring with each listen. And it's got Caribou floating.
"The real substance of the sound of the record for me is this idea of making dance music that consists of liquid elements," Snaith explains. "Rather than sounding metallic and rigid, everything is washing around you while you're listening to it - from one ear to another - but also the pitch is oscillating up and down, and each instrument is going in and out of tune with everything else. Sounds are emerging and disappearing, like everything is made out of water. Dance music is very much associated with very crisp, metallic, clean sounds. I like this idea of dance music that just washes around with fluidity." "I feel like it's the most 'me' album that I've made," Snaith continues. "In the past, oftentimes part of the excitement of making music for me was hearing someone else's music-some long-forgotten record from the past-and deciphering how to make those sounds and incorporate those ideas into something of my own. This record is much less a product of its influences. I think this is the record that I'm most proud of because it's the most 'me' in the way things sound; I feel like I have my own vocabulary now. So much of contemporary music is soaked in referencing this or that. I wanted people to put the record on and not be able to say, 'This sounds like so- and- so.' I want people to say, 'This sounds like Dan!' It's what everybody wants-to have their fingerprint on the music they're making. I feel like I've achieved that to a greater extent than I have in the past, and that's exciting." (Merge Records, 2012)