Proof positive that ‘word of mouth’ is not just a pipe-dream of marketing (mad) men: Caribou’s set at Electric Picnic’s Body & Soul Arena. As a few hundred devoted attendees quickly spread the word about Dan Snaith’s wee-hour electronic blitz, the lore seemingly became airborne. This is perhaps why tonight’s Button Factory show, moved some weeks ago from Crawdaddy, is utterly stuffed to the rafters (and might well have sold out a second time over).
Of course, also aiding and abetting Snaith’s popularity is 2010’s sublime offering Swim. A none-to-distant relative of Snaith’s earlier Manitoba works and the follow up to the psychedelia-tinged, Polaris-winning masterpiece Andorra, Swim is a multi-faceted delight. At once laid-back and abstract, the album has roundly been described as dance music for indie folk. Yet despite more than a smattering of the dance music anthem on board, Swim is a sonically level work, devoid of the dizzying dips and hands-in-the-air highs of your garden-variety dance fare. Case in point: the quietly dazzling ‘Kalli’ doesn’t build to the euphoric climax that its house-y opening strains might suggest. Rather, it merely recedes in a flurry of horns. In a good way, mind. And so the album goes.
Said song is tonight’s opener, allowing the audience to settle into a show loaded with expectation and promise. There’s a curiously mixed crowd on board too; your dyed-in-the-wool boffin fanboys rub shoulders with cute hipster girls, no doubt lured by those Body & Soul rave reviews. And, after playing 175-odd shows in 8 months, Snaith and his band don’t disappoint. Vocally, Snaith cuts an introspective presence on record, but happily the man is not as delicate on stage as one might think.
Elsewhere in the set, lush strings are thrown against church bells; studio beeps and loops against some fairly nifty drumming. ‘Bowls’ shimmers with strings and brims with urgency, while ‘Odessa’ and ‘Melody Day’ are predictable crowd-pleasers. ‘Jamelia’ is clever and groovy, while ‘Leave House’ is a little ball of fire that somehow oozes cool. Swim might be a steady record, but tonight’s show certainly boasts plenty of unflagging highs and dynamic, stomping moments. At the end of the set, ‘Sun’ is greeted by the crowd like an old friend, and rightly so. It’s a delicious moment that will stay on the skin long after Snaith and his band have departed. So enthused and jazzed are the crowd that they pull Snaith from the stage in an unexpected crowd-surf moment.
It’s funny how Dan Snaith’s roots as a mathematician are often discussed, as though they’re somehow responsible for his complex yet precise brand of sun-soaked electronica. Who knows; maybe they are. Yet his ability to marry a number of cerebral styles together in perfect harmony hints at a man who is more than able to think outside the box. Straddling both the indie and electro camps he may well be… but both would be much duller places without him.