Daphni – Jiaolong

Daphni - JiaolongDaphni
[Merge, 2012]
Nick Torsell, October 18, 2012
Buy: Direct
Listen: “Ye Ye”

Dance albums can renegotiate the listening space of the audience, bringing the shut in to an imagined club. Others bring them to the walk home, the reappraisal of expectations when you set out for the night, the quickly fading nostalgia for the joyous peaks the night did gift you. Daphni’s Jiaolong, Caribou maestro Dan Snaith’s new album, is a rare reconciliation of the two, heady rhythm tracks that get feet on the floor.

Jiaolong functions as a love letter to a scene, a side-project that is as vital as excellent as the original group. The Daphni project should not be viewed as a departure, you can hear Snaith inching towards dancehalls with Caribou’s Swim, or even earlier with the solar pulse of Manitoba’s Up In Flames. When Daphni released “Ye Ye” on a spilt 12” with old bud Four Tet’s Pinnacles it wasn’t a shock, it was a natural continuation. “Ye Ye” makes it’s way on to the album, and is the most menacing track on Jiaolong. Starting with a simple warm drum kick, Snaith then buries the percussion with an icy synth line and a gruff vocal chorus repeating the title at will. It mirrors Snaith’s adopted home of London, it’s grimy, and you can imagine it filtering out of an open club door into the silvery film of the Thames.

There almost wasn’t a Jiaolong according to Snaith in an interview with Spin’s Philip Sherburne; “I wasn’t even planning to release a Daphni album until a few months ago. There are loads of Daphni tracks that aren’t going to see a release that I’ve just made to DJ with. That’s what all these tracks are made for. It wasn’t until a few months ago, when I put a bunch of my favorite ones together, that I thought, “This actually is coherent as an album.” At times you can see the seams, but those moments are few. Sometimes, like on the sunny intro to the outstanding remix of Ne Noya’s track “Cos-Ber-Zam,” which presents a clash against the dark and propulsive first track “Yes, I Know,” only to have those clashes disintegrate with a synth flash. On “Cos-Ber-Zam” Snaith mentions, “I just sampled that loop from the record, just a drum loop and a voice.” The sample, featured on a compilation from label “Analog Africa,” is a find. The vocals are joyous and confident, while the drums wind around the sample until it changes its tone on a dime, a celebration turning sour around the halfway point. It’s an example of what Snaith is getting at when he says, “Hopefully, there’s a feeling of excitement and spontaneity in these Daphni tracks.” It’s a clever moment on an album filled with them.

Later track, “Ahora” is one of the most straightforward club tracks on Jiaolong, an elastic rhythm that trades in a drop for a sharp spike. It’s probably the most fun track on the album. Snaith mentions, “I’m certainly not trying to be obtuse or obscure in any way. I love playing a big tune in the middle of a DJ set that has other weird music in it. I love those moments. Who doesn’t love being in a club when everybody’s got their hands in the air?” The fat handclap rhythm section on “Springs,” seems like a conceit at first, but then it collapses around a spazzy laser-gun melody that dissolves into banshee shrieks and squawks. That it remains fun is a testament to Snaith’s skill at crafting traditionally “difficult music” into something you don’t realize is difficult.

When Four Tet released Pink this past summer, it was a culmination of a series of 12’’ singles that created a whole greater than it’s parts. Daphni released much of Jiaolong the same way, with more than half of the tracks seeing release on 12” singles before the completed album saw it’s release on Merge this week. It feels like a throwback, a forced absorption of the album at a snails pace. This was a slow process, and in the end, a successful one.


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