Album Review: Daphni – Jiaolong

Daphni is the new project and new pseudonym for Canadian electronic artist Dan Snaith, most famous for his work as Caribou. With 2011’s Swim, he got all kinds of well-deserved attention, including the 2011 Juno award for electronic artist of the year. But since then, Snaith has had a bone to pick. As an electronic artist still at the forefront of the scene, even after over 10 years on it as Caribou and Manitoba combined, he loves to DJ. But in his own assessment of current electronic dance music, Snaith sees nothing positive. In interviews, he’s described the current American EDM scene as a “barfsplosion”, to paint a vivid picture. So instead of hanging out on the sidelines and waiting for things to get done, Snaith is making positive change himself, starting with a change in name. Now, as Daphni, Snaith takes on the club scene with an artistry that we have only come to expect from him.

“Ye Ye”, the lead single from Jiaolong, was first released on Four Tet’s TEXT label on double A-side 12″ with Four Tet’s own “Pinnacles”. “Pinnacles” was later rereleased on Four Tet’s collection of new singles Pink – his own musical response to the current club scene. “Ye Ye” is as much of a techno club banger as Snaith could really put forward. It’s subtle and it’s a slow build, but at the climax it will completely knock your socks off in ways “Where’s the drop?” EDM explosions can’t even begin to. It’s not really that Caribou albums like Swim are that un-danceable. But with Jiaolong, Snaith makes a pretty blunt statement that dance music is meant to be equal parts fun and provocative – not just an instant gratification sensory overload.

That’s not to say that Daphni is just Caribou for the club. On Jiaolong, Snaith tends much further towards Afrobeat and house textures than he has in the past. You might also recognize the Daphni take on “Cos-Ber-Zam”, which we’ve seen in recent DJ sets from John Talabot and others. “Yes, I Know” also has a killer soul sample of the Buddy Miles classic. With songs like “Light”, we see where Snaith draws a line between himself and mainstream EDM. It’s easy to give the crowd what they want, rely on filthy dubstep drops and huge treble boost builds, but it’s much harder to create a complex and rewarding piece of art that people will want to dance their ass off to. In “Lights”, Snaith tempts you with moments where you think he’ll go full-on predictable house, but then he pulls the rug out from underneath you again and again. Much like Daphni’s entire existence, Snaith will just keep you guessing until you stop trying to call his next move.

Jiaolong is out now digitally and on CD on Merge Records. You’ll be able to grab it on vinyl in a couple weeks. Listen to the rest of Jiaolong below.

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