Listen to this track by studio wunderkind hailing from Dundas Ontario and now proud Londoner, Dan Snaith, AKA Caribou. It’s “Melody Day”, a kaleidoscopic slice of fantastical neo psychedelia re-imagined as a folktronic piece as taken from 2007’s Andorra.
The record was looked upon as his best work under the Caribou name (he’d previously gone by “Manitoba” until The Dictators’ “Handsome Dick” Manitoba took issue …). It was the winner of the 2008 Polaris Music Prize, going up against acts like Basia Bulat, Black Mountain, and Stars, among others, which certainly indicates its considerable quality.
The song itself hearkens back to a time when pop music was expanding inwardly as times were a-changin’ in the mid-1960s; think late-period The Zombies, Soft Machine, and Syd-era Pink Floyd. This Anglicized style of yesteryear may or may not be a result of a move that Snaith made from Canada to London in 2001, where many a great British psych record was made. Regardless, Snaith is a modern artist, using the tools of his own era to somehow evoke the spirit of that earlier analogue era, which is no mean feat. This certainly shows that the sound of the past can still make an impact, regardless of the tools it takes to make it.
Snaith may have used another arrow in his quiver as well, of course; his PhD in Math!
In our culture, there’s a split between the arts and sciences. But, there is also the tendency to think that because that split exists in terms of the way we organize activities under those categories, that somehow the division becomes hard coded. It isn’t of course. Music has always been very mathematical when reduced to its constituent elements. The “coldness” of math does not really equal the coldness of music, unless that’s how the composer designs it of course, using the same system as they would to make it warm and inviting. Maybe that says as much about math as much as it does about music.
Here, the sound of this song is more summer of love than it is anything else, full of aural sunshine and wheeling colours that makes it appealing regardless of which era it comes from, or out from which hemisphere of the brain. Snaith asserts that passion is passion, with math and music merely being the outcropping of it all. If the music is warm and human, perhaps the cleanness of the sound he achieves here is a reflection of the precise nature of that other discipline – although music itself must be precise in its way, even if it is meant to sound like it’s not. Once again, that division between arts and sciences really is academic, especially when the results are this compelling, and in more than one sense of the word.
Speaking of dichotomies, another one that is evoked by this track is that between rock music and electronica. Here that division also seems pretty academic, coming from an artist who makes reference to rock history, while also being one who frequents the dance clubs of London as a DJ, and has worked with the likes of Radiohead (with whom he has toured, and with a full band) and remixing their work for new audiences. Which world does Dan Snaith inhabit? Well, all of them. And as for math and music, he seems to be willing to embrace the mysterious natures of both with aplomb.
Dan Snaith is an active artist today, not only helming new Caribou records but also active in the creation of new material for side project Daphni.
You can catch up to Dan Snaith at caribou.fm.