Caribou Vibration Ensemble @ The Opera House: photo by Michael Ligon
I suspect that if Caribou's Dan Snaith's high school music teacher (presuming Dan took a music class or two and or took part in band in high school) was to have attended the Caribou Vibration Ensemble show at The Opera House last Thursday night, he or she would have been very proud. The show spanned a spectrum of sonic textures, rhythms, vocals and melodies and simply was musicality at it's best. Sometimes less is more, but in this case more was great, if not better. For the occasion, which was basically a warm up gig for Caribou Vibration Ensemble's show at All Tomorrow's Parties which went down in Monticello, New York this past weekend, Dan assembled a bevy of musical friends that included Ahmed Gallab aka Sinkane, a few Born Ruffians, Jeremy Greenspan of Junior Boys, Kieran Hebden of Four Tet, Koushik and perhaps a few others (yes, I didn't know every one on stage, and there was a person or two I couldn't see from my vantage point near the right front stage).
Apologies to anyone expecting a review from me of opener Koushik's set. Unfortunately I got to the venue later than expected and only caught the taileend of the set. The last song was a extended multi-drum / percussive jam quite a bit different from the downbeat groove-tronica samples I'd heard on Koushik's Myspace. However, with Koushik Ghosh also taking part in Caribou Vibration Ensemble, he actually sung lead on a dreamy, hypnotic groove number that was closer in line to his own music.
Caribou Vibration Ensemble's set was a multifaceted one, with a dizzying array of instrumentation including percussion(including a watermelon!), multiple drumkits, flute, trombone, sax, vibraphone, tambourines, shakers, keyboards, guitar, and some electronic noodling, as well as a vocal choir on at least one song. But as schizphrenic as Caribou sometimes comes across musically, spanning influences such as electronica, jazz, psychedelia and indie rock, it's the concept of rhythm that seems to tie it all together, and yes there was no shortage of it. Sinkane's Ahmed Gallab and Caribou's Brad Weber maintained a double drumkit assault for most of the set with a third member or sometimes Dan himself joining in on a third kit. Energies convalesced into all-out chaos at one point as both Ahmed and Brad stood over and on top of their drum kits in a delirious effort that had the audience spent by the end of it. And that wasn't even the set closer.
A particular highlight of the evening was the minimalist choral group rendition of "Melody" substituting the original's psychedelic pop overtones for something much more subtle and intimate - so intimate in fact that although it was Dan and five others singing the song in unison albeit quietly, you wished that the sound guy turned up the levels a little. Many of the songs showcased Caribou's more rhythmic side, reflected visually by almost constant bordering-on-epileptic strobe light effects. As Dan jumped from keys/electronic noodlery, to guitar, to drums and back to keys/electronic noodlery, most of the time singing lead (when not handing out lead vocals occasionally to guests like Junior Boy's Jeremy Greenspan or Koshik's Koushik Ghosh), I'd observed that he maintained the most humble of personalities. While Dan's humble in his own right, the very nature of his Ensemble seemed to be a showcase for the various talented artists that composed it. A musician's musician Dan is, and not a rock star, and that probably was all for the best. But with the spectacle, both aural and visual, put on display by Caribou Vibration Ensemble last Thursday night at The Opera House, I'd take that over rock star attitude any day.
Photos: Caribou Vibration Ensemble @ The Opera House (September 10, 2009)
More review/photos/coverage over at Chromewaves as well as eye, Exclaim, and NOW.