Broaden those horizons

Electronic artist Caribou goes for hearts and open minds


with Arp, Viernes

7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 18

Back Booth, 


It wasn’t that long ago that the world of electronic music was a shadowy subculture, occupied almost exclusively by the equal and opposite camps of serious-minded avant-classical composers and seriously partying club kids. Artists like Caribou, the stage name of Canadian musician Dan Snaith, are out to change that perception, both for longtime fans of the genre and for the rest of us. 

Snaith mixes traditional pop structures and instruments with electronic production methods, a uniquely flexible style that works both live and on record. 

“People maybe aren’t aware [of] how long the history of electronic music is, or how ingrained in the music they listen to it is,” says Snaith. “It took a while to become integrated into the pop landscape and now it’s just sort of everywhere. Just about 
everything is electronic to some degree, and most of it sort of very overtly [electronic].”

Snaith’s approach is to refuse to shy away from either subversive or obvious influence in his music and instead let the necessities of each track dictate the extent to which he will rely on any given instrument or technique. 

“I grew up playing piano, and played in bands and played drums,” says Snaith. “I learned lots of traditional instruments first, in this classical way. You know – learned harmony and that kind of thing. Then I got interested in electronic music because it was an easy and cheap way to record. Also, a lot of the records I was hearing as a teenager were so different, so unique that they caught my attention. So I spent a lot of time in both of those kinds of worlds and really fit somewhere in between.”

Caribou’s catalog displays the flexibility with which Snaith approaches his material. From album to album, he jumps from something that sounds like a lost reel of Nuggets-era classics (2007’s Andorra), to the overtly liquid, danceable hum of this year’s Swim. 

“With this one, there was this particular idea of making liquid-sounding music, where all the different layers are kind of sloshing around,” says Snaith. “That was a conscious decision that happened before I began making any of the music, so that sort of unified everything. I was always a terrible swimmer, and my wife got me swimming lessons for Christmas, so really, the only things that I was doing while making this record were making music every day and going swimming every day or every other day. It obviously fed into that idea [of] somehow being in a watery environment so much of the time.”

Although Swim is one of the most danceable of Caribou’s albums, and one of the most similar in style to what most people think of as “electronic music,” it actually features more live instruments than his 
other material. 

“People have this very narrow conception of dance music, this very limited conception,” says Snaith. “It’s a 4/4 beat and a particular kind of synthesizer, a little vocal loop or something. The thing that excites me is that dance music is the most kind of open-ended genre. As long as there’s kind of a rhythmic beat that keeps people moving, there’s not really any taboo about making a track with [a] bizarre combination of sounds or that is very poppy or is obtuse and very dissonant. 

“I like the idea of making electronic or dance music with elements that people aren’t used to, with things like the harp and Tibetan bowls being played – functioning almost accidentally as dance music.”

Accidental or not, Snaith’s songs do just that and serve to update and re-imagine the notion of what it means to make elec-
tronic music. 

“For me,” says Snaith, “it definitely serves to broaden the possibilities.”


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