Under Review


Up in Flames (re-release) (Leaf)

Mono Brown

When the folks at the Leaf label re-issued Up in Flames, (originally released in 2003 by Dan Snaith’s Manitoba), they did simply that: slapped ‘Caribou’ in place of ‘Manitoba’ on the album’s original cover, not only to satisfy the likes of Handsome Dick Manitoba, but also to provide fans of Caribou access to a significant piece of the artist’s full repertoire.
Snaith himself promised fans that “At the end of the day, nothing’s going to change other than the name,” and indeed, Up In Flames makes good on this vow. Open your copy of the re-release on iTunes, for instance, and you’ll notice that the artist name may still appear as Manitoba. Will the Gracenotes Database be the site of the next stand-off between Snaith and the Dictators? Time will tell, but until then, the re-release of Up in Flames will enlighten the second wave of Snaith fans (those who got to know him only as Caribou, among whom I count myself) of the musical stepping stones that led him to the sounds of The Milk of Human Kindness.
What strikes me about Up in Flames as a novice ear of the Caribou soundscape is the lushness of the album’s terrain as it moves fluidly and energetically from psychedelic rock to electronica and hip hop. Through “I’ve Lived on a Dirt Road All my Life” to “Kid You’ll Move Mountains,” the meditation on simple musical motifs transforms the instrumentation of Up in Flames into a form of reflection. The syncretic sounds that populate the album’s environment blur the boundaries of genre with a playful joy that seems to have been undermined by the identity crisis Snaith underwent in its wake. The re-release of Up in Flames will hopefully return to Caribou some of the territory lost between names, and it remains clear that one name or another, the spirit of the Up in Flames persists in spite of itself.