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Caribou At The Music Box

Emily Wilson |
October 9, 2010 | 3:40 a.m. PDT


Caribou (Emily Wilson)
Caribou (Emily Wilson)
This is the type of music you might expect a doctor of mathematics to create—if you could reasonably expect such a person to dedicate much of their life to making music.

Dr. Dan Snaith, who records under the moniker Caribou, has and continues to do just that. He makes electronic music that enlightens listeners to a thoughtful, precise, focused approach to creation--one that seems on-par with a brain fixated on numbers and equations--but somehow doesn’t come across as formulaic or pretentious.

On Friday night at the Music Box in Hollywood, he performed with three others, forming a quad-man band of impressive results. Each member is a multi-instrumentalist and the often-surging overall sound made it seem as if no fewer than ten people were on stage.

Playing songs off his latest album Swim, along with an assortment of songs from previous recordings, Caribou and band put on a mesmerizing show of almost relentless energy.

Improvisation is key to this live shtick as the band has freedom to innovate on stage, sometimes giving the comfortable allusion of watching friends have a jam session – just probably way more awesome than any jam session your friends will ever have. 

Caribou’s music is often accurately described as psychedelic. His awareness of this genre was made evident by the full projection of bright, continuously swirling color patterns on the back wall and strobe lights intermittently going on and off, on and off, on and off at blistering paces. 

The hour and a half long set, encore included, showcased Snaith’s subtle, reliable falsetto. He sang with eyes looking upward, fixated on the ceiling as his left hand kept the rhythm against his hip. When not singing, his intense focus was directed mostly at his synthesizer, but a few times at his minimalist drum set, guitar, recorder or tambourine. 

The unorthodox stage formation placed the main drummer at the front with Snaith, putting the focus on the rhythm—and rightfully so. The drummer played on a set that was both electronic drum machine and traditional drum set, allowing for a blend of rock and electronic that often hit harder and more intensely than expected.

And when Snaith played his drum set simultaneously, it was even more raucous. The dual drumming put the crowd into frenzies as the theater floor rumbled with reverberation and stomping-feet-excitement.

But the most captivating moment was during the encore, when Snaith used two microphones for an echo-effect, repeating the word “sun,” the only lyric on the song by that title, as the drums, guitars and other instruments reached a crescendo of energy that only live music could ever reach. No recording could capture it.

As it turns out, the doctor of mathematics is smart: solid initial recordings + talented, energetic live band + visual aids = a great musical experience.

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