CARI­BOU Swim

Pasatiempo - - Pasa Tempos - — Robert Ben­ziker

(Merge Records) In his ca­reer record­ing as Man­i­toba and Cari­bou, Dan Snaith has never gone in the same di­rec­tion twice, yet ev­ery jour­ney he takes us on is dis­tinctly in his ve­hi­cle. Af­ter the gor­geous at­mo­spher­ics of 2005’s The Milk of Hu­man Kind­ness, Snaith turned to psy­che­delic pop on 2007’s An­dorra. On Swim, he gives 2/4 time a lit­tle more play and sculpts his sonic pal­ette around the avant-disco of artists like Arthur Rus­sell. The re­sults are fre­quently com­pelling, par­tic­u­larly on a stretch in the mid­dle of the al­bum that finds Snaith whip­ping up a stew of bells, harps, flutes, and bass, mas­ter­fully shift­ing the beats from one mo­tif to the next. The ma­jor prob­lem with the al­bum is that Snaith’s sing­ing isn’t up to the chal­lenge. He aims for the ghostly tenor of Rus­sell, but his voice isn’t nearly as ro­bust. It’s thin and nasal and of­fers lit­tle pres­ence — which is fine when he’s us­ing it as an in­stru­ment, com­ing and go­ing like it’s run­ning laps on the splin­tered funk of “Sun.” On tracks like that, his vo­cals blend in with his other in­stru­ments, which he of­ten likes to have flicker like light bulbs or drift like va­por. On the more tra­di­tional songs, like “Odessa” and “Found Out,” it presents more of a prob­lem. But, I should add, not so much of a prob­lem that I can’t wait to see what di­rec­tion Snaith ven­tures to­ward next.

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