Caribou is an interesting beast – literally – and musically. Dan Snaith has taken many guises but Caribou seems to have the most style and substance among them. With his latest album “Our Love” he retreads some old paths and covers the cracks in his electronica palette.
Opening with the spacey “Can’t Do Without You” we have a groovy drum track and plenty of electric piano and synths that hum and drone behind a repeating vocal of the title. The beauty of the track comes from the inventive use of phasing instruments through the speaker and gently manipulating the instruments as they twist frequency to turn them into something else. It’s the subtly behind it all that’s impressive and its catchy too. “Silver” is a low fi tripping beat that slowly unravels a twisted vocal riff and a watery bass warble. It’s strangely hypnotic and therapeutic with its warmth and quirkiness. “All I Ever Need” continues to walk the late night vibe with smooth and sultry rubbery synths that feel thick and meaty but never too much. The track flips between repeating two chords and reminds me of a modern-day Soft Cell in many ways. Title track “Our Love” then reminds me of club remixes of the early to mid 90’s like Nightcrawlers with simple riffs on repeat over relatively minimal drums and percussion. The track rarely explodes into a frenzy or stretches itself but it is great for a dance. Interestingly the short two-minute “Dive” is one of the more inventive tracks that loops and chops warped vocal samples over a slow mo bass and club synth. It’s mixture of drama with the heavy reverb and the slow motion feel makes for an impressive piece.
“Second Chance” is this albums Swim with little percussion and plenty of pulsating synths to keep you very much in the grind. The female vocalist really suits the ambience and it along with the following track “Julia Brightly” – which is too short – really are my favourite tracks on the album. Simple, fun, full of groove and funk – it’s a hark back to older dance music and a nice homage. “Mars” however is a close third with its heavily percussive track and use of synths that sound like woodwind instruments. It’s cross blend of tribal and electronica makes the track feel unique on the album and it stands out as a result as an intensive march onward. “Back Home” returns to the late night synth pop approach with a great track that is about as radio friendly as the album ever gets. Dan’s voice works really well here as he actually sings proper lines and there’s a traditional song structure. Caribou really can write great electro-pop tracks if he wanted to and this is proof they’d be amazing as the second half of the album really shines. It closes quickly though with “You Love Will Set You Free” which keeps the low-fi dirty side of the electronica displayed here but uses lots of tricks and effects to keep things sexy, slinky and moist.
“Our Love” is a difficult album to rate because it feels like there’s some great ideas that have been stretched over several tracks and they do work, but they are often repeated for quite some time before you move on. I do really like the album, but I preferred Swim and Andorra. If you think of this as late night Caribou then suddenly this album scores top marks, if you want a rip-roaring club mix or clever rock album, this won’t set you free at all.