Daphni, aka Dan Snaith’s previous outing as Caribou was an untouchable combination of songwriting and technical ability. On Jiaolong he delivers a delightfully simple and instantly rewarding album of dance music.
For a man with a PhD in maths the temptation must always be to over think a situation. Add an extra bit here, manipulate this some more, process that a little differently but Jiaolong is quite the opposite. ‘Yes I Know’ calibrates expectations with a charmingly under-produced house rhythm shuffling to an infectious groove and a sinuous analogue bass line. It would sound very ‘Berghain at 5am’ if it weren’t for the shoe-horned funk sample that the track takes its name from. It basically train-wrecks its way into the mix like a bad mash-up DJ at a birthday party. On first listen you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d accidentally clicked play on another track at the same time. Inexplicably it actually works and immediately shakes off any pretensions that this is going to be a po-faced, knob twiddling, analogue album. Admittedly there is plenty of knob twiddling and it’s very analogue but it’s also fun, extremely fun indeed.
Second track, ‘Ne Noya’ a remix of Cos- Ber-Zam, continues the funk by respectfully looping the original and tempering its warm African groove with dollops of cold bass and ascending flourishes of glacial synth. ‘Ye Ye’ was released last year and features an 80’s mission control desk malfunctioning rhythmically over an expanding bass growl and the title’s basic lyrics. ‘Light’ is the unlikely amalgamation of a techno record decorated with pan-pipes and ‘level-up’ noises from a Master System. ‘Ahora’s thoughtful wash of synths arch over a grainy, crackling rhythm of splashy hats and booming kicks. Whilst, Jiao is a smorgasbord of ever evolving trills and sound effects that plods carelessly onwards. Throughout Jiaolong, thoroughly captivating grooves are sparingly embellished with unexpected daubs of colourful melody giving each track just enough to keep it moving.
It’s easy to imagine Snaith in the studio recording these songs, surrounded by a complex mass of wires, drum machines and synths but conducting them with the ease and grace of an electronic orchestra. He’s admitted that the tracks are ‘rough and spontaneous’ but they actually give the impression of being played live and in one take. In the mind’s eye Snaith unhurriedly flows from one machine to the next triggering samples, playing melodies, looping bass lines, easing faders and noodling away with a leisurely purpose. It makes Jiaolong a warm, intimate listen, full of personality despite being musically sparse. Snaith hasn’t set out to make something minimal, he’s set out to evaporate the overblown pomp that house music can be and condense it down to its base elements. What he’s achieved with Jiaolong is a grainy unrefined crystal of pure electronic music.