Caribou at the Paradise Rock Club, March 26, 2008
Depending on your outlook, Dan Snaith is either a genius auteur or a misguided, egomaniacal control freak. As Caribou, the former math scholar records electro-inflected psych-rock albums all by his lonesome, acting as sole songwriter, instrumentalist, and producer. Like the albums of his spiritual cousins Kevin Barnes of Of Montreal and Gustav Ejstes of Dungen, Snaith’s are kaleidoscopic and expansive, but they feel vaguely isolated, having been created by a solitary basement monster. On the other hand, Snaith, Barnes, and Ejstes all surround themselves with stellar supporting casts when it’s time to take the show on the road.
At Caribou’s not-quite-sold-out show at the Paradise last Wednesday, Snaith and his current cohort — guitarist Ryan Smith, bassist Andy Lloyd, and drummer Brad Weber — brought the myriad layers of last year’s heady Andorra (Merge) to life, with a little help from their electronic friends. The whirling flute sounds of “Melody Day” and the shimmering samples of “After Hours,” seemingly triggered by a man behind the curtain, came in and out at precisely the right moments. (After the show, Smith told me they play along with pre-arranged backing tracks — not an easy task, but also a bit inauthentic-feeling.)
No surprise that Snaith, shoeless and wearing mismatching socks, spent the 75-minute set multi-tasking: singing, strumming a guitar, blowing on a recorder, twiddling knobs, plinking a xylophone, and banging away at a full drum kit in face-to-face drum duels with Weber at the front of the stage. Meanwhile, colorful, pulsing projections — synched with the music and created by Snaith, natch — provided a backdrop bordering on psychedelic cliché. All the instrument hopping and trippy visuals would seem contrived if the songs were anything less than excellent — if Snaith were just a misguided, egomaniacal control freak. The butterflies flitting around in my stomach during “Sandy,” as Snaith and Weber pounded the so-satisfying outro drum groove in unison, suggest he might just be that genius auteur.
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