2005 Tour CD
Live at The Spanish Moon, Baton Rouge, LA 11/14/2005
I love it when my expectations are blown wide open by a band when I see them live. I had been revisiting Caribou's resplendent The Milk of Human Kindness a lot this week in preparation for the live show, wonder how what I had assumed to be a hermetic laptop-in-the-cellar project would translate into a live show. There was some local DJ playing beforehand with his modest rig set up at the edge of the stage, dropping some midtempo loungey-cum-dubby restaurant music to the non existent crowd, and I remarked to the friend I dragged to the show with me that the main act might be more of the same: a dude fiddling with dials that spurs you to want to get up there and just look at what he's doing. What is it about the mere presence of some on on a stage that makes you watch? Like the weird allure roadies and guitar techs hold over an audience while they do their jobs. I've seen snooty electronic music pieces realized in concert halls where they basically wheel out two large loudspeakers and and apply some gels borrowed from the theatre department to color an otherwise empty stage, upon which our eyes are inexplicably fixed for the duration of the bloops and bleeps being produced elsewhere.
Another strike against the night is that Caribou is currently touring with Welsh dada-groovers Super Furry Animals, but Gruff and crew decided to take a night off and bypass our fair city. So fuck em.
Behind the deck-manner was two battered drumkits, a couple guitars and some keyboards we figured to be left over from some local group that was too drunk to load up their gear from the weekend and just left it there (that kind of stuff happens in this town. My friend Mike's Fender Rhodes sat unmolested in a corner of the Thirsty Tiger for about a month because no one was willing to help him lug that heavy bastard up the steps) but no, in fact it was among the panoply of racket makers that the live version of Caribou were to employ in service of blowing our minds. Dan Snaith shocked the hipsters in attendance by not only addressing them but by also being congenially goofy about it, and then he and the other Drummer took to their kits to create a wildarm flurry the likes of which have not been seen since the Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem graced our prime time screens. The three (also a guitarist playing a thin hollow body Gibson - I'm glad to see more hollow body electric making the rounds these days. Hollow body is good for the soul) would switch up between drums, electric and nylon guitar and keyboards to create a hyperdelic meltdown version of Caribou's somber clever electro pop. Did I mention they use melodicas a lot? Like on most of the songs. Its good stuff.
Adding to the mayhem was a series of projected animations by Irish design collective Delicious 9, running the gambit from Adult Swim grade low-fi animation to groovy passing-through-tunnel/laser show splendour. To create your own version of the caribou show at home, pop in the Marino DVD collecting these videos, get a wacky friend to put on some sock puppets playing cardboard drumkits in front of the tv and blast the bonus tracks on the DVD and the tour CD. They run along the same low-key path that those on The Milk of Human Kindness do, like the opener "The Barn" which pits his singular nylon guitar picking against an undulating array of whalesong dips, ecstatic drumbeats and echo effects. Its perfect electro pop music, like that video version of New order's "The Perfect Kiss" where all dancefloor ambitions are set aside and the artist goes about the business of making inventive, compelling music with all this technology.
"Marino" creates a dizzying lite funky atmosphere like a room full of drum machines getting a contact high off each other, while "Handelschnapp" follows close to their live practice of filtering the psychedelic concrete breakdown at the end of "Strawberry Fields Forever" through the kosmic kaleidoscope into a full fledged song of its own. "Sunsesame" creates a tumble-drum ray of slow bliss glowing from your headphones finishing out the bonus cuts on the DVD.
The tour CD keeps apace with dub-tastic cinematic contrapuntal tragedies like "Bloody Murder" and sweet drum machine and guitar doodles like "Medium Sized Working Dog." The key thing with Caribou, both on disc and in person is tat they manage to be daring and accessible at the same time. I think there are some definite similarities to The Beta Band in that aspect, but Caribou is a woolier outfit, willing to succumb to the organic ecstatics of techno in the course of fleshing out their songs. "the Snow Capes" is a prime example where you get a mix of crescendo beats and sweet sad keyboard and guitar lines mixing in perfect juxtaposition. Honestly, I like this band more and more as I listen to them, finding that they mine a warmer, richer vein of electronica than even my faves of this year Four Tet. Definitely catch their live show if they are washing your way, and get all their stuff. It will change any tired old opinions you have concerning what a band is supposed to be comprised .
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com