Though he began his career producing pastoral percussive assaults and kraut-leaning jams as Manitoba/Caribou, by the time of his 2010 album, Swim, it was obvious that Dan Snaith was increasingly interested in dance music. Not only was Snaith himself becoming increasingly active as a DJ, but Swim's immersive but propellent sonic pounce sounded like the kind of mesmeric psych-out that would have been at home on a label like Border Community. Around the same time, a slight psychological split occurred, with Snaith adopting a new guise, Daphni, for remix work, edits and delirious tracks like "Ye Ye," his contribution to a split 12-inch with long-time ally Four Tet.
Now, after issuing several other tracks, Snaith's decided to assemble that past work with a few new ones for JIAOLONG, his debut LP as Daphni. Borrowing a name from his own label, JIAOLONG sidesteps the plodding feel of many singles compilations by serving up a decidedly coherent and singular album that seems to flow almost like an extensive mix. Indeed, those accustomed to the beardy, one-man jam-band quality of much of Snaith's past may be worn out by the brawny, if slyly complex creations on display here.
Though Snaith's said in interviews that his Daphni tracks tend to arrive from spontaneous creative flare ups rather belabored workouts—often specifically tailored for his sets—there's a very mannered intricacy underlying the muscular functionality here. JIAOLONG combines the looseness of the one-or-two takes approach with the aural assuredness of tracks that may well have gestated for six or eight months. It's, well, a brainy sort of blast. "Ye Ye," for example, twirls around clipped "yeah yeah" vocal samples and a step-down synth growl, all kind of simmering over a precise video game gurgle. The humid, African-stomp of his remix of Cos-Ber-Zam's "Ne Nova"—a Congolese one-hit wonder of a sort—undercuts its heavy, charging funk with one of Snaith's signature warped synth blurts. Elsewhere, opener "Yes I Know" begins in stinging, warbling disorientation before quickly morphing into a horn-fueled stormer that might be mistaken for a Theo Parrish edit if it weren't so, well, clean. "Pairs" is another stab at combining a churning Afro-beat—one of the album's central motifs—with Snaith's burbling, zone-out synthesizers.
In fact, for those pressing to merge the two sides of Snaith's recording personas, there's really perhaps only "Ahora," a deep, tribal flute-laced piece that very much resembles the acidic fluorescent charge of so much of Swim (shorn of Snaith's distant sad-boy croon). Long-time Caribou fans should delight to know that Snaith's still hard at work on the follow-up to that record. But as he becomes increasingly integral to, and enamored by, dance music culture, it seems like Daphni's the project that hews closest to the majority of Snaith's interests now. Frankly, it'd be nice for him to continue to develop both of these sonic sides; JIAOLONG is one of the year's most consistently compelling LPs, whether as home listening evening fuel or out and about in the sweaty rooms for which it was designed.
Buy Daphni - JIAOLONG at
Tracklist: Daphni - JIAOLONG 01. Yes, I Know
02. Cos-Ber-Zam - Ne Noya (Daphni Mix)
03. Ye Ye
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