CARIBOU: OUR LOVE (2014)
1) Can't Do Without You; 2) Silver; 3) All I Ever Need; 4) Our Love; 5) Dive; 6) Second Chance; 7) Julia Brightly; 8) Mars; 9) Back Home; 10) Your Love Will Set You Free.
Please to witness yet another strong proof of how much the reviewer is falling out with the times (again!) — apparently, Our Love got the strongest, most raving reviews of Snaith's entire career, and even made it all the way to No. 46 on the Billboard charts, yet I can barely bring myself to sit through half of it (and several relistens have only made the torture worse), so here's a very brief verdict and hopefully I'll never have to do this again.
In a nutshell: where Swim could at least still be called a psychedelic dance album, Our Love is just a dance album, period. It's probably far from the worst IDM album ever released, but it is precisely that — an IDM album. And I am no enemy of IDM when we're talking classic Aphex Twin or other people who have the proper guts to export our conscience into outer space or to orchestrate a robotic apocalypse, but Snaith, with his «sunshine attitude» that was so à propos when dabbling in abstract electronic jazz on his first records, or when going retro-Sixties on Andorra, is just boring as hell when he goes for straight house music.
Of course, he still mixes it up, and there is, for instance, a strong streak of R&B running through the album. ʽCan't Do Without Youʼ, opening the album, samples a bit of Marvin Gaye, combining the sample with Dan's own falsetto, but I've always thought that the primary power of R&B is always locked in live grooves and spontaneously generated power, whereas here we are locked within a robotic, sterile arrangement, and the complex overdubs of several waves of synth noise do nothing to save the situation. If this is an ode to happiness, there is nothing to confirm this except for Dan's looped sample — and even though there is quite a lot happening, as on every Caribou track (read here for an almost over-detailed deconstruction), the track leaves me completely uninvolved on an emotional level, which is a catastrophe.
Everything that follows is essentially more of the same mood: soft dance grooves with complex, but bland and generally predictable series of overdubs. ʽSecond Chanceʼ, with Jessy Lanza on vocals, melodically sounds like some lost Aaliyah outtake with a minimalistic synth trot providing the bulk of the instrumentation — very, very boring. The title track is simply horrible, almost completely undistinguishable from generic club muzak, and I don't care how many extra textures he throws in — the combination of that bass pulse with the man's falsetto aah-aahs shoots the lights out from both, and the results just sound stupid.
And I could go on, but I won't: let's just say that I fail to get the point of this kind of music — it's no less danceable, of course, than any other piece of music with a steady beat, but its artistic content is completely compromised by the «applied» nature, and I would go as far as to say that its relation to genuinely gripping electronic dance music is about the same as Chubby Checker's relation to Chuck Berry; keeping in mind, of course, that there are plenty of people who'd actually prefer Chubby to Chuck, and, by analogy, there might be people around who will like Our Love more than Selected Ambient Works. In my personal paradigm, though, this counts as a generic sellout from yet another guy who decided that sounding «trendy» and «modern» should do more for his carma than investing his talent into creating true beauty. (Let alone the fact that I am not exactly sure in what way these beats, loops, and overdubs are «modern» for 2014, when all this and more has already been done in electronica many times over). A near-disgusted thumbs down. Bring back those Zombies rip-offs once more, comrade! Viva la Revolución!