With its’ driving psychedelic swagger, light headed melodies, balmy bits of carefully calculated vintage throwback, and esoteric electronics, Andorra (Merge), the latest release from Caribou, demands more than a few musical variables for the band’s curator, Dan Snaith, to balance. Fortunately, the Canadian artist and certified numbers nerd comes well equipped to compose order out of the kaleidoscopic compositions that make up the album…turns out he is a Ph D in mathematics. And like the elaborate equations he no doubt conquered daily during his studies, Andorra’s erratic tendencies slowly ease over the course of several listens, revealing a still wandering, yet ultimately catchy as can be collection of summertime songs that toyfully teeter on an unexpected precipice.
Taking his listener’s to the edge of the cliff immediately, Snaith masterminds a storm of organic and electronically contrived elements brewing around an energetic 1,2,3,4 snare drum drive on the album’s Mamas and the Papas on even more acid opener “Melody Day”. It’s dense and exotic, with a flurry of swinging cymbal work and wicked trap set fills, kept in time by the right hand of the very best kind of jazz man, setting a furious pace for flutes, bassoons, and acid guitar to fly around. Expect much of the same from songs like “After Hours” and “Sun Dialing”.
Vocally, Snaith knows where his limits lie. Rather than jeopardize the Byzantine, three dimensional nature of his work with overwhelming vocal contributions, Snaith neutralizes his voice by harmonizing it with the mix. It is a nice compliment, not to mention poetically economical. When Snaith does decide to peep up on rare occasions, he reveals cringe-worthy lines like, “You left me nowhere to start and watch me falling apart. There's nothing left I can say to stop it ending this way” (“Desiree”).
Though Snaith has always kept his vital grasp on electronica, Andorra is an album that threatens to plunge down a pit of pop at almost any moment. Of course that kind of conclusion would be a tad too simple (not to mention too dull) for the brainy doctor at the head of Caribou. Rather than commit to one or the other, Snaith chooses to hover on the brink of both. And in doing so, Snaith equates one of the most vivid, and uniquely imaginative albums you’re likely to come across this year. - David Pitz