The Mixdown: Daphni - Jiaolong

By: Matthew Vega

Dan Snaith refuses to settle for just one: one name, one sound, or one standard. For years, the soft-spoken Canadian has been anything but standard. Trekking around the globe, he grandstands as his various aliases that consist of Caribou, Daphni, and the now defunct Manitoba. If you haven’t heard of him by now, just look at the exhaustive lists of 2010’s top albums, and find that Swim appeared on a solid 9 of them. Or you might have caught the Caribou Vibration Ensemble opening for none other than Radiohead this past spring. It’s also very possible that Snaith’s recent Spin Magazine interview was feed-fed to you, where he concisely explains his disdain for the “EDM barfsplosion” currently saturating pop music. One thing is certain, if you haven’t crossed paths with this artisan purveyor of synth, it’s high time you get familiar.

On October 16th 2012, Snaith intends to release Jiaolong (Merge) under his Daphni moniker, an immersive tour de force of surprising, evolving, and occasionally timeless dance tracks, procured from his desire to push the limits of what the genre can be. Jiaolong ends up as  a serious depart from the “rituals and cliches” in pop music. In a recent interview Snaith said:

The whole point of this music is for it to sound like something unexpected and genuinely live and improvised is happening, so when I was DJing it in a club, people would get that feeling that like: ‘What on earth is going to happen next? We don’t know where this music’s going!

That is precisely the kind of mandate for quality that Snaith’s listeners have come to expect, and for good reason. Snaith is no stranger to the dance floor. As early as 2003, he frequented London record shops and was spending time with Jeremy Greenspan of Junior Boys in Canada, (whom he credits an introduction to Detroit techno,) making music under Manitoba. These are undoubtedly some influences that shaped Snaith’s DJ selections and production technique, earning him top spots on the indie charts and in DJ booths alike.

From this time he’s churned out remixes for Hot Chip, Carl Craig, Sinkane, and Art Department, all receiving the Daphni treatment, not to mention a fantastically curated Swim remix album. These pieces have assisted in securing Snaith as a force to be reckoned with when it comes to all things BPM.

One would assume touring with one of the worlds most recognized bands, Radiohead, has left little time for any superficial side projects such as Daphni, and Snaith has admitted that some of these tracks are, in fact, years old. Most would shy from revealing comments such as the former, however Jiaolong has a worldly, timeless feel throughout, and dates cease to be relevant. Not since Swim has there been a electronic release so full of surprises, so organic in selection, and so meticulously crafted together, that it borders on mechanical. You’re immediately beguiled to keep listening.

The first single, Ye Ye, released in March of 2011 on Text Records, is a pumping, breathy track, sprinkled with a “yeah, yeah” house vocal hit and schizophrenic shakes. This was and was the first release by Daphni through Four Tet’s label. Upon first listen, you’d immediately understand that this is Caribou after hours, and not by chance; Snaith has been hard at work making sure there is a balance of power in all the audible emotion.

An always-humble Snaith explained in a recent interview that these tracks were “created quickly”, dismissing any sort of complex explanation. Quick in this case was not of detriment, and his mastery and control of all things audible becomes immediately apparent when listening to Jiaolong as soon as the first afro-beat sample is looped on Cos-Ber-Zam - Ne Noya. The intelligent house found here is an AMG engine: hand crafted and fine tuned to its greatest potential. 

The lines between Caribou and Daphni at times fade throughout, and comparisons become audible on “Jiao,” a jagged, Mediterranean tinged parade, injected with a smattering of hi-hats and a strong unwavering melody that melts into a percussive rhythmic groove. However, if it’s 1am “club bangers” and “a drop” you’re looking for, you will be disappointed with Jiaolong. This is a record that simmers on the dance floor until it’s a nice golden brown, with flare-ups every so often that remind you where Snaith comes from, and where he wants to go. He thrives at creating tension on stand out tracks like “Light” and “Ahora,” with the latter instantly capturing you with its melodic, reverb laden flute melody. As complex as Jiaolong may seem, it is also very simple and accessible- a valiant, fruitful, and satisfying attempt to bring diversity to the increasingly stagnant state of EDM and club.

Check out the video for “Ye Ye” below by Jane Eastlight