47.08 min • Jiaolong • October 16, 2012
Jiaolong is Daniel Snaith’s answer to the explosion of mainstream dance music upon us today. In a press-release for the album, the Caribou composer and frontman explained the reason for his new project, Daphni: “Set against the backdrop of bland and functional dance music and the mind-numbing predictability of the EDM barfsplosion … there is a small world where dance music lives up to its potential to liberate, surprise, and innovate”. The music he is presumably referring to is made by today’s big-name chart producers with Autotune-heavy, balls-to-the-wall choruses which seem to blur into one another (I, personally have spent nights out wondering the difference between the current song and the one blasted out five songs before that). Arguably, some of these songs have their place in music; the mere fact that they are selling reflects that people like them. However, the unfortunate thing about the surge in dance music is that many of those making it are consistently formulaic and, as a result, are often soulless and forgettable. The purpose of Snaith’s new moniker is to experiment with the genre and create songs people, “could not have conceived of existing,” before hearing them.
So does Daphni provide the antidote to corporate dance music? Well, to start with Snaith uses a completely different vocabulary to that of the DJs he resists. The album is constructed on subtleties; simple beats, consistent rhythms, old school samples and analogue synths. The diversity of genres the album infuses is a credit to Daphni. It draws and samples from techno, disco, house, jazz, afrobeat, psychedelia and several other strands that reveal themselves on repeated listens. In fact the only thing this album and the current music trend have in common is their intent: to make people dance. Taking its name from a mythical aquatic dragon, Jiaolong’s songs are meant to meander, juxtapose, surprise and take a course of their own. The album’s magic lies in its hypnotic structures, so when the horn samples come in on ‘Yes, I Know’ or the sound of crashing waves over the soft crescendo on ‘Long’ it feels startling beautiful.
Jiaolong is a mature dance album which incorporates several moods and styles of dance music and captures those transcendent moments Snaith set out to create. Those who enjoyed Caribou’s 2010 Swim album will feel at home on this one as it adopts similar sounds which made album so distinctive. Although Jiaolong may not provide an answer or solution to undoubtedly the biggest breakthrough music genre of the last five years, it does offer an alternative. It stands as a reminder that dance music can be experimental, inspiring and fun without following a pattern or formula. This is an album for those feeling the comedown of the party but still want to thump their feet into the early hours.