Over the years I’ve come to the realization that I should never underestimate or try to pigeonhole Dan Snaith. With every album he has explored different sounds, and while some of his releases haven’t done quite as much for me (Andorra, in particular), others didn’t wow me on first listen but have grown on me so much that I consider them near-classics (The Milk Of Human Kindness).
And of course, there are others, like Up In Flames that lodged with me immediately and have never really lost any of their luster. After spending a great deal of time with Swim, I actually have to say that I think it will probably end up in the same category.
Yet another drastic direction change from Snaith, this 9 song album is heavily influenced by techno music (in interviews, Snaith mentioned James Holden by name), and also by the fact that he said he wanted to create music that sounded like it was made out of water. If one were to only listen to the first cut (and first single) “Odessa,” the impression might be that it’s a dramatic departure, but as the release plays out, it doesn’t seem quite so drastic.
Yes, it’s certainly a darker release than Andorra, but that one was nearly all sunshine and bubblegum. Instead, Swim, takes that darker, heady dance music influence as a base, then layers some of his past elements on top of it. “Sun” is an almost straight-up 6 minutes of panning, filtered synth layers and vocal swirls, but “Kaili” plays out somewhat similarly at first, with dense synths and some dreamy vocal lines from Snaith, but as it reaches the midway point, a poppy flourish buoys the cut into a different place, with ascending flute, trumpet, and sax melodies.
“Kali” – Caribou
Although the album closer of “Jamelia,” with Born Ruffians singer Luke Lalonde taking lead (which makes me even more excited about their upcoming album) is also a stunner, it’s the dark, minimal cut of “Leave House” that leaves one of the more solid statements on the album. With a snaking flute line, the track creeps forward with just a touch of menace, adding layers (like a groaning bass) before peeling them back again while Snaiths vocals take on just a slightly less sunny intonation.
“Leave House” – Caribou
And really, other than the bright aforementioned “Sun,” the lyrics on Swim are just a bit more on the melancholy side of things. The music itself follows suit slightly, but still has a real power and energy in the production, along with a sheer woozy factor that’s hard to deny. Techno music might be an inspiration, but there’s certainly those usual threads of psych, kraut, and other styles weaving their way through the release as well. I’d be surprised if it isn’t among my favorite albums of the year.