It’s already common knowledge that Handsome Dick Manitoba forced Dan Snaith to change his name from Manitoba to Caribou, and of course the initial reaction was how absurd that was. It’s not as if the Canadian province of Manitoba would have done the same. After all, if there can be a Chicago, Asia and The United States of America, surely there could be a Manitoba. But apparently, there cannot. For us listeners, however, the actual repercussions didn’t begin to set in until Snaith released The Milk of Human Kindness, his third proper album, and first as Caribou, and it fucked up our music filing system. I mean, do we keep it under M? Do we put the M’s under C? That bastard.
Snaith and Domino Records understand our pain. And since dude had to change his name anyway, why not reissue his first two albums, each with an extra disc of bonus tracks, rather than merely re-press the same discs with new artwork? A capital idea! And thus, Start Breaking My Heart and Up in Flames, two records previously credited to Manitoba, are now Caribou’s domain, and with a little something extra. If it may seem a bit soon to be doing such a thing, it’s because it is, really, each of these having been released well after the Y2K scare. With those extra discs tossed in, however, the listener is treated to extra beats and pieces of the Manitoba/Caribou pie, with the bonus tracks giving indications of how Snaith went from downtempo IDM to psychedelic Krautronica.
Beginning with Start Breaking My Heart, Snaith had a good thing on his hands, if a safe one, pairing off-kilter beats with warm, obtuse samples and jazzy melodies. On “People Eating Fruit,” Snaith creates an atmosphere far more organic than any of his sampladelic peers. Yet on a track like “Lemon Yoghourt” or “James’ Second Haircut,” the cut-and-paste sounds become more pronounced, if still somewhat subtle, the melody consistently winning the battle over the BPM. The same, generally, can be said of the second disc of material on Breaking, sounding more or less exactly what you’d expect outtakes and b-sides from such an album to sound like. Still, “Tits and Ass: The Great Canadian Weekend” has a good enough title to land on a few mixes, and it ain’t a bad little tune either.
The bonus disc on Up in Flames works as a sonic transition between Heart and Flames, working a sort of psychedelically modified version of the first album’s electro-chill. “Cherrybomb” turns up the beats, while adding a heady, educational film soundtrack on top. “Olé” finds acoustic guitar making its way into the mix, and “Thistles and Felt” comes closer to the Mercury Rev-like sound on the album.
When listened to in this order, then, the main attraction on Up in Flames actually ends up being one hell of a climax. A swirling, psychedelic haze of joy, it’s, to date, Snaith’s best effort. The Milk of Human Kindness comes damn close, but this record is one of the most sublime works of studio invention and creativity of this decade. “Hendrix With KO,” “Jacknuggeted” and “Every Time She Turns Round It’s Her Birthday” alone would be one earth shattering 12-inch, but the remaining seven songs only up the ante. It may be soon for these discs to end up reissued, but at least we get something extra out of having to re-organize our music collection.
Four Tet – Rounds
Mercury Rev – Yerself is Steam
Ulrich Schnauss – A Strangely Isolated Place
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.