Of all the artists you might have predicted to make the dance album of 2010, Caribou probably wasn't on your shortlist.
But with a decade's worth of critically acclaimed, award-winning bedroom electronica to his credit, Dan Snaith---the man behind the moniker---was determined to make a clean break from people's expectations.
"I was very conscious of wanting to do something different from Andorra," says Snaith, on the phone from Vancouver, of his Polaris Prize-winning 2007 album. "I wanted to get away from the idea that people are like, 'Oh, I understand that guy. He's kind of nostalgic about the '60s. He makes music on a computer but it sounds like it's from the '60s.' I wanted to push away from all that and really surprise people."
Mission accomplished: If much of Caribou's recorded output to date sounds tailor-made for a solitary headphones experience, Swim is flooded with dance-floor ambition. Its loops groove and swagger, with hooks that evolve effortlessly through melody after melody. If not for the moody, introspective lyrics, it's practically a party album.
"I've made records that are very much sort of 'headspace records,'" says Snaith, who comes to the Paragon on Friday. "This record is very much connected to the things that were exciting me day-to-day."
For the most part, that meant dance music---the work of peers and friends like Hot Chip and Four Tet's Kieran Hebden. In particular, Snaith was inspired by the idea of making dance music that sounded more liquid than solid, with a flow that was warm and inviting instead of cold and metallic.
Originally from Ontario, Snaith now lives and records in London, England. To help build the sound he was looking for on Swim, he would DJ at local clubs on weekends, spinning other artists' records alongside new Caribou loops and fragments that he was working on---often material that he had put together mere hours before.
"It really brought that immediacy and excitement to making music," Snaith says. "Making records on your own is such a slow process. It's nice to have that thing where it's like, 'Oh, I'm making music for tonight.' And you have people either liking it or not liking it right away."
In that spirit of sharing, Snaith recently pulled apart the pieces of Swim track "Sun" and invited the world to play with them in a remix competition on his website. With dozens of entries, Snaith chose the winner---a DJ named Altrice from Tucson, Arizona---based on his ability to bring an entirely new feel to the track.
"He set his own mood around the whole music. There were lots of clever ideas, lots of great production ideas, very technically skilled as well, but lots of people had those qualities. The thing that set him apart for us is that the song took on its own character that was very much his."
Now, Snaith is performing Swim as a four-piece band. He says there's a certain playfulness that comes with touring a dance record. "Loop-based music is easier to reinterpret and develop on its own, rather than what you can do with a more concise pop song. We can kind of extend things out and change them as we go along."
And the ultimate evidence that his Swim ambitions have been realized?
"There's been much more dancing at our shows than there has been at anytime in the past, which is great," he says. "We really enjoy that."
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