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Caribou - The Milk of Human Kindness

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Artist: Caribou

Album: The Milk of Human Kindness

Label: Domino

Review date: May. 17, 2005


It’s old news, but Dan Snaith now records as Caribou. Some insignificant bartender in the East Village threatened to sue, forcing him to relinquish the Manitoba name. Luckily, dramatic alterations like this are nothing new to Snaith, who is currently writing a thesis concerning modular forms, part of his PhD in mathematics. After debuting with the cozy Start Breaking My Heart (all too similar to some other Canadian-dubbed purveyors of pastoral IDM), he followed with the more organic psyche-candy Up In Flames. Throughout it all, Snaith’s maintained a warm sound, and in his latest incarnation, he disguises shoegazed sampledelica as a live band.

Reveling in a kaleidoscopic, almost naďve sense of discovery, The Milk of Human Kindness is filled with the undulating trance of Neu! and Can, the ferocity of Lightning Bolt, and the hazy beats of Express Rising. The eccentric Snaith rips the rarefied sounds of modern pop from their established context and forms nonlinear compositions constantly in flux.

The number of brief deranged flourishes among fleshed-out thoughts lends Kindness a sort of Trout Mask Replica pace. Of the spastic tracks, Snaith’s apparent homage to Morton Subotnick sounds more like Fela Kuti and Odyssey and Oracle. The alarming “Lord Leopard” – Snaith’s first stab at hip hop – melds shrill, Bronx-style beats, a looped harpsichord and a Julliard recital.

His other hip hop track, “Pelican Narrows,” is slightly more developed and one of the album’s finest. The permutation of its naked break and porcelain music box is dirtier than anything found on RJD2 or Boom Bip’s latest records. “Yeti”’s whirring mellotron, whimsical lyrics about skunks and feathers and blue-sky acoustic guitar would have fit right in on Flames. The modernized Easy Rider anthem “Bees” is the tightest groove Snaith has etched, all laid-back cooing, cascading brass and rapid-fire kit breakdowns.

Snaith wears restlessness well, making The Milk of Human Kindness more audacious and assured than anything he’s ever done. Spry, optimistic, cacophonous and always moving forward, the record acts as a microcosm of the Manitoba/Caribou state, with Snaith gracefully proving once again that change can be good.

By Jake O'Connell

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