Caribou: Cat’s Cradle, Carrboro, NC 5/12/10

Carrboro, North Carolina’s Cat’s Cradle has always been a favorable spot for bands on the fringe of public consciousness. Caribou, for instance, would likely have a hell of a time drawing a few hundred people in Raleigh, Charlotte, or Asheville. But in Carrboro, the artist sometimes known as Daniel Snaith performed to a near-sellout crowd, and it wasn’t the first time he’s packed the house at the venue. However, last time he was in town the sound was better and the music infinitely more engaging.

When Snaith toned down the experimental sounds of his early work and got melodic on 2007’s Andorra album, business picked up for the man and his band. They found success among electronic music and dream-pop fans, who flocked to the shimmering singles “She’s The One” and “Melody Day.” Both of those songs are perfectly pristine on record, but in the live setting, Snaith’s somewhat wispy voice gets buried beneath the boiling psych-rock and pummeling dance beats created by the band.

Things are just fine when Snaith is leading his quartet through their mesmerizing, beat-heavy moments, though watching them play isn’t exactly riveting. So wide arrays of visuals are splashed on a large white backdrop while strobes and flashes of multicolored light penetrate the ocular murk, and there’s a pronounced dance element that works well, albeit intermittently. But the quieter and vocally oriented moments are less successful, and many of the band’s attempts at weirdness only turn out to be boring.

To put it bluntly, this show was one of the most unremarkable performances I have seen. The enjoyable moments were all too brief, and I personally spent far too much time waiting – waiting for the next song as the band droned away, waiting for the few precious hooks to emerge from distorted forests of noise, and waiting for the whole affair to be over. I enjoy Snaith’s experimental leanings on record, but in concert there’s a lack of depth that makes his waves of sound quite flat. For now, I think Caribou is best enjoyed via headphones, where the music retains its nuance.

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