CARIBOU: THE MILK OF HUMAN KINDNESS (2005)
1) Yeti; 2) Subotnick; 3) A Final Warning; 4) Lord Leopard; 5) Bees; 6) Hands First; 7) Hello Hammerheads; 8) Brahminy Kite; 9) Drumheller; 10) Pelican Narrows; 11) Barnowl.
This is Snaith's first album recorded under the name of «Caribou», but the name change was triggered by the threat of a legal suit rather than any artistic reasons — Snaith's musical essence stays precisely the same. Well, not precisely: third time around, there's even more vocals, and it kind of becomes obvious that the man is trying to gradually shape his imaginative textures into pop hooks, moving from amorphous abstractionism into discrete abstractionism. This is kind of like a kids' room in MoMA now — happy colors, odd shapes, friendly disposition, psychological manipulation. You sure feel safe and warm in a world like this, but you don't even begin to truly understand it, because... well, just because.
The very first track is called ʽYetiʼ, but it neither features Tibetan musical influences nor is in any way related to the dark psychedelic jamming of Amon Düül II. Instead, it is a very lightweight soft techno-pop number, dominated by a shiny electronic riff and overdubbed with various silly sound effects. If it is indeed supposed to be a musical portrait of a yeti, it is quite a politically correct one — in quasi-real life, an actual yeti would hardly seem to be the ideal playing companion on the Sesame Street playground, but this one is almost cuddly. Later on, the sudden infatuation with East Asia reoccurs on ʽBrahminy Kiteʼ, another techno romp, very drum-heavy this time, but still very similar in atmosphere — "descending all the time, pretending all the time, pretending to be free" is Snaith's way of describing the bird, but the slightly cynical lyrics are not even one bit reflected in the feather-thin, electronic-baroque melodies.
Occasionally, stuff gets louder and crazier, like on the multi-part ʽFinal Warningʼ, a speedy, monotonous groove sprouting various bits of samples, backward tape recordings, distorted wordless vocals and every once in a while erupting in walls of noise, but they are friendly walls of noise, too, like large waves that periodically reach the electronic surfer and provide an incentive for fun rather than fear. ʽBeesʼ starts out very unusually, with a blues-rock-style twin guitar interplay that even sounds somewhat snappy in the overall context of the record, but very soon, the guitars are complemented with Dan's mellow vocals (half-Beach Boys, half-Nick Drake), a folksy acoustic guitar part, then a pastoral flute part, and eventually, one more friendly noisy climax that hardly seems to mean any harm.
I do not care much for the brief instrumental links that join the tunes, but I do care that the man is also demonstrating some major folk-pop talent — for instance, ʽHello Hammerheadsʼ is a bit of a folk-pop gem with a smooth-as-butter merge between Dan's ideally delivered vocal lines and the two-part acoustic guitar overdubs. That's just one song, but it is of essential importance to the record because it provides some insight into the personality of this «Caribou» guy (at least, his artistic alter ego), confirming our suspicions that he likes to posit himself as a melancholic, but idealistic loner, taking after Brian Wilson and Nick Drake to the best of his 21st century man abilities. But for what he lacks in depth compared to those guys, he makes up with scope: the repetitive blues-rock of ʽBarnowlʼ takes its cue from Krautrock à la Neu! and even Can, with all that metronomic repetitiveness and all those psychedelic guitar tones. Only, once again, it's all nowhere near as disturbing or frightening as classic Can could be in their prime — because we don't want to scare off them kids.
Overall, as long as Snaith continues to make cautious progress, he's okay by me, and on this record he's at least made progress by shedding some of his artistic anonymity and showing a trifle of personality — and it's a nice, intelligent, and creative personality alright, so thumbs up once again.