Even the math geeks have to cut loose now and again.
Over the course of the past decade, Daniel Snaith's body of work -- first under the name Manitoba and now Caribou -- has turned an electronic eye toward pop's past. His detailed songs, sometimes spazzy and often a little dreamy, put a modern gloss on '60s psychedelics. While always candy-colored and accessibly melodic, it was geek stuff -- seemingly loaded with layers and diversions for the vinyl set.
Now with "Swim," the mathematician-turned-musician just wants the world to dance. Released last month via Merge Records, "Swim" puts the emphasis squarely on the groove. Opener "Odessa" is a sugar-high of rhythms, with synths that mimic whistles and vintage keyboard-sounds moving in a rave-like fury.
And then things get weird. "Kali" is hypnotic mix of manipulated and vibrating electronic noises, "Lalibela" is minimalist charm, "Sun" is bachelor-pad space jazz and "Bowls" is a heady trip around the globe, with hand claps, harp-like sounds and rural beats. If one can't quite place the instruments that comprise the beat, Snaith said that was the intention.
"Those are samples from actual Tibetan bowls, but then they were played on a keyboard," Snaith said. "The fact that I’m playing those parts affects the timing, the sound and the harmonics. There’s a lot of that on the album -- a sample of one instrument that’s played on the keyboard to give it a different character. It’s all about making a weird hybrid."
Living in London, the Canadian said "Swim" was inspired by adventurous British dance producer James Holden and features a sound he first wanted to capture on 2007 pop album "Andorra." Of course, being asked to spin records in clubs also played an impact in Snaith's dance-heavy makeover. The artist was turned on by the instant feedback of dance culture.
"You get an intuitive response and a really honest read," said Snaith, who tested the tracks that ultimately constituted "Swim" in clubs. "People didn't know it was my stuff, so a lot of what I DJ'd, even if it was just a rhythmic snipped, ended up on the album."
It will be created live Wednesday at the El Rey. Touring with a full band, Snaith will translate the electronics to the stage with a pair of drum kits, guitar, keyboard and bass. Though "Swim" is Snaith's most overtly electronic effort, he wanted to leave room for live improvisation and is striving for a fluid, heavily connected stage setup.
"The technology in the last couple years has leapt forward," Snaith said. "Four or five years ago, it wouldn’t have been possible to do all the technological things that we would have wanted to do. For example, there’s video projections that go along with the music, but they’re integrated. They’re being played live by someone on stage. Also, one step of a pedal triggers something else to happen. Or one press of a key on a keyboard can change the effect on another instrument. Everything is inter-connected."
It sounds like the kind of complex live show that only a math-whiz could pull off. Yet Snaith, who has a PhD to his name, said the academic and artist worlds rarely meet.
"The mathematics I was doing was so esoteric," he said. "It didn’t have any direct input on the music I was creating. Music was always intuitive and emotional. There are probably parts of both things that appeal to the same part of my personality, but I think I’d be making the exact same music if I had never done a mathematic equation."
Caribou at the El Rey, 5515 Wilshire Blvd., with Toro y Moi and Dublab DJs. Tickets are $20, not including Ticketmaster surcharges.
Some other notable shows this week: