Daphni – Jiaolong

Dan Snaith has been around for a while now. Whether it be under the IDM/ electronica moniker Manitoba or the hugely successful brand of folktronica dance pop as Caribou (‘Odessa’ even made it onto the Fifa 11 soundtrack), he has been quietly building a faultless back catalogue of work that, whilst making the often treacherous crossover to the leftfield mainstream, has still maintained all the sensibilities and integrity of a respected electronic producer. As is widely discussed in dance music circles, Snaith has also obtained a mathematics PhD from Imperial College. What this may lack in ubiquitous pub quiz knowledge, is made up for in that we are offered an intriguingly different way with which to analyse Snaith’s productions.

His latest alias, Daphni, sees a return head first to the dancefloor, in a much more clubby way than his last offering, ‘Swim’, which often veered off in more experimental and psychedelic directions. As is so often the case nowadays, we’ve been granted a taster of what the Daphni project has to offer thanks to the musical library that is YouTube, with tracks like “Ye Ye” and “Yes I Know” doing the rounds for months on social networking sites, as well as in DJ sets across the world. Before saying anything else, it is important to note that despite its ostensibly more dance-orientated direction, Daphni is still unmistakeably the work of Mr Snaith. The meticulous amalgamation of hats, toms and snares are arranged with such precision and dexterity, that it could only be the work of a man whose craft is in some way indebted to, well, mathematics. Whilst this may sound condescending to other producers, you cannot help but stand back and admire the versatility of a man who, with such distinct and diverse timbral choices, presents us with a sonic universe that he can truly call his own.

Lavish praise, maybe, but amidst all of the rhythmic and orchestral complexity of Daphni, there persists a noticeably ethereal quality in line with classic Chicago house. The 4×4 beat is an ever present reminder of the Chicago connection, but it somehow never outstays its welcome. It is a beat that the tracks are not dependant on but build around, allowing Snaith’s affectation for tribal world music (“Pairs”) and disco (“Yes I Know”) to take centre stage, whilst “Light” has the bassy propulsion to work in the middle of a deep house set, and final track “Long” would be comfortably at home at 4am on a beach in Ibiza.

In some ways, Snaith’s Daphni project could be viewed as a complete summation of his career to date. Through it, he effortlessly blends the abstract electronica that characterised his early productions, whilst yielding to the dance aesthetic that he has always shown in his DJ sets (for the record, he is fire behind the decks). All that we can hope for now is that Daphni paves the way for other producers to follow Snaith down the eclectic road of unique production, safe in the knowledge that the house beat will always be there as the guiding force, and if you just look hard enough you will find it.