Dan Snaith kicked off his career 10 years ago with soothingly downbeat electronica—the kind of stuff that got labeled as IDM when IDM still seemed like a useful label—but then voyaged far and wide, putting out albums of maximalist psychedelia (Up In Flames), brittle kraut (The Milk Of Human Kindness) and summer-y ’60s pop (Andorra). Each time, bleeps and bloops made appearances but seemed beside the point: Caribou is more about ecstatic synthesis than synthetics.
Swim finds Snaith diving back into pure sequencing, but the result is his strangest and gutsiest work yet. At first it sounds cold, filled with hissing breakbeats, inky negative space, hard turns, and false endings. But Swim quickly reveals itself as finely textured and melodically generous. The zombie-eyed funk of the opener “Odessa” and the itchy Michael Jackson strut of “Leave House” deliver bona fide pop hooks. “Hannibal,” with its toy-box loops and sinister classical horns, resembles Aphex Twin—before it melts after its midpoint for two minutes of Snaith’s sighed lyrics. Weirdest of all is “Sun,” an unfiltered dose of jungle-house about three steps removed from “Sandstorm.” It’s fitting that Snaith occasionally drops arty pretense in favor of kinetic payoff: His music is generous, so it was only a matter of time before he returned to electronica, the most luxurious genre of all.