Canada - Full Moon 104 - 03/25/05
The Milk of Human Kindness
Domino USA and The Leaf Label
Judging from the titles of the band, album, and songs, this promises to be a record that is predicated on the humane, the natural, and even the ideal. Judging from Dan Snaith's previous effort under the moniker Manitoba, this also promises to be darned good. Let's put on our animal masks and take a peak:
We begin with a cacaphony, but only a short one. A soft drum fill brings us to the childlike rhythm that backs this song. Dan's singing is more present here than perhaps we're used to. The melody, while a bit unconvincing, matches this child-likeness. A loud drum fill brings us to the Manitoba-like rhythms
that climax "Yeti". Put to rest any worries you might have had that the drummers wouldn't be as center stage as they were with Manitoba. The double-kit drumming effect, while honestly sometimes incongruous feeling to of Dan's credulous melodies and backing rhythms, is still being used here to really give Caribou a very distict sound.
Moving on with the song "Subotnik". Introing with a 60s malt shop chordprogression, it moves fairly quickly to 90degree-turn territory, which here is actually used very effectively. This is a short song, only a minute and nine seconds long. It's effect is to provide a bit of a walk down to the 3rd song and provide cohesion. "A Final Warning" is a title that gives me the impression this song will be a bit of a portent. Instead, it sounds to me like a Mr. Rogers story. The singing here is heavily processed and stacatto. Just as you might start to feel a little bit let down or bored by this song (around half-way), Caribou throw this sheet of laptop made beauty that completely saves.
Formally, Caribou do something similar to what Archer Prewitt tried with his January-album: make arrangements with a lot of different sounds, parts, and sections actually sensible and workable. Where Mr. Prewitt fails, Caribou exceed admirably. The myriad changes on this record are nothing but brilliant because
they don't take away from the cohesion of the song: they somehow paradoxically weave it even tighter.
"Lord Leopard" uses a classical sounding arpeggiation, a hip-hop drum and bass, and Dan (or it could be a sample) yells "go" a lot. This song, like track 2, is short and used as a means of transportation. We continue with "Bees". What a fucking great songtitle. The guitars sound almost-classic here, and the singing is clear and good. This song really got to me. I don't know if it's the trumpets and saxophones or the recorder or what, but somehow this song succeds in reaching that memory-well in my mind. It's odd, brand-new songs that are so good it's almost like you've heard them. The neatest thing about this is how long "Bees" allows itself to remain understated, without a shred of double-kit drumming until nearly three-quarters of the way through. Great song.
"Hands First" is half-minute long bikeride through heavily special-effected drumming and 2 vocal chords, one at the very beginning and one at the end.
Continuing with his voice higher in the mix than we heard with Manitoba, in strangely titled "Hello Hammerheads" Mr. Snaith sings his nieve lyrics in a wise and broad melody: She told me to stay/or go away/and I looked in her eyes and left her/some people try/to tell me why/I made up my mind and left her. Then he hums and repeats the montra. At 2:42, This is another short song, and I think Caribou are able to accomplish exactly what they are wanting to with these little parenthetical digressions.
"Brahminy Kite" brings us back to the signature heavy drumming and laptop programming. While a decent track, this is probably the lowest point on the album. There are some real nice sounds here, but I just feel this song is simply too long (5:22) for it's depth. "Drumheller", the final and best vehicular song, begins the denouement.
The album finishes out very smoothly, albeit a little boring perhaps. It's a heavy album, and after being pummeled by "Yeti", "A Final Warning", and devestated by "Bees", the last two tracks are rightly afterthoughts. The last quarter of "Barnowl", the final song, in the first predictable step Caribou has taken on this album (and I'm glad they did this), is a hell of a fucking romp that dies and gets buried in weird sounds. Awesome.
Sadly fellow animals, it's now time to take off our Animal Masks.
As Lunakafe's own Tim Clarke said in his live review of Four-tet and Manitoba several months ago, this is an incredible live band. One of the most exciting things to me about a new Caribou record is that they'll be on tour soon, so keep your eye out.
This is an album that is full of surprises and great moments for new listeners, and certainly one that any previous Manitoba fan will want to pick up.
Copyright © 2005 Bill Banks