- Over the course of four records since 2001, Dan Snaith has been one of those artists you seem to grow with instead of against. In those nine years, he's offered the kind of subtle but insistent artistic evolution that's kept fans intrigued and casual listeners at least, well, curious. From the playful IDM of debut Start Breaking My Heart or the woozy, layered psychedelia of Up in Flames to the chunkier, funkier rhythmic pastiche of The Milk of Human Kindness or the dense acid pop of 2007's Andorra, Snaith has kept himself moving without sacrificing his own sonic idiosyncrasies. Thus, his catalogue's an arc that's easy to navigate, not a series of errant explorations.
As such, he's an interesting artist to follow in print and online as he's working on his next project. I mean, much as any artist's more recent interests shed light on their own future pursuits, the man leaves hints about where he's headed. And in the three years since Andorra, Snaith's left a few breadcrumbs. In a late 2007 interview with Pitchfork, Snaith mentioned that James Holden was one of his go-to artists at the moment, and that he'd been engaging with headier electronic fare in general. So it's not surprising that his fifth record, Swim, unveils Snaith's "clubbiest" version of his psychedelic reveries, building Andorra's submerged fever-dreams into a fully digested dance-pop hybrid.
Described as an attempt to make "dance music that sounds like it's made out of water rather than made out of metallic stuff," Swim is arguably Snaith's most immersive sonic endeavor to date. Though you can hear traces of the dead-night trance techno of Holden and the wistful electro of BC comrades like Nathan Fake (in the bleary, heartbroke intro to "Lalibela" for instance), Snaith's record enfolds these textures into the more streamlined '60s psych-rock touchstones with which he's always been associated. The most instantly engaging cut included, lead single "Odessa," opens with a warbling, punchy strut that sounds like a logical extension of Haight-Ashbury escapism given more propulsion. "Sun," meanwhile, bumps along a tight trap-set groove; Snaith's vocal chants of "sun!sun!sun!" are laced against the cut's echoing synth melody like they're bounding against each other in a canyon. "Leave House" is similarly straightforward, a tale of a fading but hopeful love set against island flute trills, bouncy bass and cowbells ticks.
Elsewhere, with its tumbling bell melody and stark but sturdy rhythms, "Bowls"—already lined up for a Holden remix—resembles the recent work of one of Snaith's pals, Kieran Hebden. But it's perhaps on album closer "Jamelia" where Snaith best fuses his oblique songcraft with the liquid soundscapes he's described. Led by tourmate Luke Lalonde of Born Ruffians, it's a dense sonic collage that manages a four-minute odyssey, shifting from a simple organ stroll through stabs of strings and several richly layered and colliding synth melodies. But it doesn't feel as forcefully patched together as the similarly exploratory closer on Andorra, "Niobe," and indicates Snaith's mastered some of that record's more frustrating and diffuse moments. It's a mesmeric aural delight, as perplexing as it is instantly engaging. Some secrets left, still, unoffered.
04. Found Out
06. Leave House