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Dan Snaith of Caribou and Daphni. (Courtesy of the artist)

The Drop: A Dance Music Alter-Ego For An Electronic Pop Master

by Sami Yenigun
Jul 25, 2012

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Sami Yenigun

It's been a long, incremental road toward dance music for Canadian composer Dan Snaith, and now he's ended up somewhere that sounds both familiar and startling. Under the early moniker Manitoba, Snaith constructed intricate psychedelic pop, which evolved into something more grooving and methodical under the name Caribou. Now Snaith is putting out music under another alias: Daphni. In October, Snaith will release a nine-song album called Jiaolong, featuring beat-driven dance cuts played on a custom-made modular synthesizer. A video for one of the cuts on that album, "Ye Ye," was released yesterday.

In a press release, Snaith said that where Caribou's songs are meticulous, Daphni's are spontaneous."They're about working fast and intuitively, capturing the manic energy needed to start a track one afternoon, have it finished, and be playing it in a club that night," he says. This first taste of Daphi's Jiaolong shows that impulse can be can be a highly effective motivator.

The song begins with a 4/4 rhythm set against a bed of crackling vinyl sounds. When the melody — played by a fat synth — appears around thirty seconds in, it lands slightly ahead of the first beat, injecting syncopation into the piece. Through the first third of of "Ye Ye," Snaith adorns his pulsing rhythm with few sparse atmospherics, including a vocal that whispers the song's title. Then he introduces a bass kick that's as unpredictable as the elements it supports.

Though this track feels less refined than something off of Caribou's last album Swim, it's not for lack of detail. Notice the way Snaith plays with the hi hat around 1:50, first tucking it behind your right ear, then your left. It gives the song texture and spontaneity, which makes sense, as Snaith celebrates the ability of a DJ to jolt his or her audience. "DJs have the potential to blindside you," he says. "During the time I was making the Caribou album Swim, I'd fallen back in love with moments in small, dark clubs when a DJ puts on a piece of music that not only can you not identify, but that until you heard it you could not have conceived of existing." For fans of lo-fi dance music with higher aspirations, "Ye Ye" is a welcome surprise.

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