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Intimacy and Ecstasy Meet at the New Funk Junction – Caribou’s “Our Love”

Our Love
City Slang

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Years ago when we were still young-ish and subject to such spontaneity, my now-wife decided we wanted to go out on a Friday night. I rummaged through the local alt.weekly and ‘Fuckin hell, Manitoba’s playing down at Holocene.’ Within walking distance from where we then-lived, wasn’t long we were in the company of Dan Snaith and whoever comprised his province-dubbed cohorts, rather grooving to Snaith’s brand of woozy swoony dancetronica with a perky substrata, though perhaps the most vivid memory of that night is not the aural but the visual: the trio that made up the band all emerged wearing pale, full-headed pig masks that glowed with surreal menace in the club lights.

While much has changed and been endured since then in b0th the personal and wider spheres – culture’s either eroded or exploded depending on your outlook and, possibly, your age; the letter ‘W’ has slowly regained its standing in the world – Snaith, name change notwithstanding (never mess with a Dictator), has remained remarkably consistent, issuing albums every couple few years that build layer after layer upon a reputation that from the start has been as strong and sturdy as, well, the hardiest milled Canadian board.

As much as it’s safe to say that the growth Caribou has exhibited over the years has been incremental but significant, it’s even safer to say that the groove hewed to on Our Love represents not so much a progression as a digression, a funky detour into the silky smooth where, as often as not, the clothes are fly, the R&B suggestive and ripe, and the shaking of an implied booty is but s slapped bass away from the real thing. One struggles to imagine these tracks being presented from behind pig masks. That Snaith manages this funk infusion while maintaining the playful cool of his trademark electronica shouldn’t surprise. His has always been an intelligently crafted remit and it’s no different here. Our Love‘s get down, in other words, is not a let down but an invitation, to loosen, unleash, to get your late night party on, no matter what time of day it is, where you are or how far away from a dancefloor.

From the warm head-nodding soul trance of “Can’t Do Without You” to the percolating “All I Ever Need” whose synth line approximates a Pong cartridge moonlighting in Peabo Bryson’s band to the deep electro-throaty bomp of the title track wherein Snaith’s mood is so one-tracked his vocal can’t get beyond a monosyllabic, falsetto’d revelry, this is Caribou in writhing mode with, amazingly, no loss of texture, with intricacy and ecstasy squaring off in perfect harmony against each other, balanced and exact in an uptown stylee.

Closest we get to the Manitoba/Caribou borderline is “Mars,” a flute-glistened, gently-glitched sonic day-trip that, at its heart, sounds less an exploration of the Red Planet or the psyche of an ancient Roman war god as it does a soundtrack to a toddler Aphex Twin chasing moths across a sylvan glade, which is to say transfixing, one imagines sun glare, a clip from a hand-held Super 8 on repeat, flicker flicker. Elsewhere, when Snaith trips the more experimental fantastic, as on effervescent mash note of a closer “Your Love Will Set Us Free,” or the chopped up funkscape of “Silver,” there’s an inescapable, irrepressible groove anchor, a serious bottom end that keeps the primal heart in thrall, keeps the head in addictive bob’n’nod mode, keeps the rhythm slinking up off the floor from the feet through the shoulders like a snake climbing your spine. That latter track may as well be Prince slumming all soulful, suggestive, and yearnsome in front of his Minneapolis/St.Paul pals Gayngs, with a stacked orgy of synths and samples piled on for that lake-effect transcendence.

So hey, it’s winter. Time to say in and get cozy, and whatever physical form that may take, Caribou, very helpfully we feel, has provided the ideal jam. Come on in, the fire’s lit, the brandy’s poured, the hearth and the heart both glow with radiant warmth, and the music? The music is fine.