Listening to Canadian electronic guru Dan Snaith's project Caribou, one would imagine - judging by 2007's Andorra, and the recently-released Swim - that Snaith's award-winning compositions must be meticulously tuned, like playing compositions by running one's fingers along perfectly measured glasses of water.
Instead, a primarily college-age Lawrence crowd at the Granada on Sunday night was treated to a crashing, shuddering show that seemed more like an awe-inspiring natural disaster than a delicate bloom of psychedelic textures and beats. (In a good way.)
Chillwave pioneer Toro Y Moi opened the show, taking his bleached-out, bedroom-electro bliss to the stage with a bassist and drummer. A sped up version of standout song "Talamak" -- one of stronger tracks from his recent release, Causers of This -- lacked the hazy expanse and introspective intimacy of his recorded tracks. Refrains of "slow down" from Bundick seemed to be directed to his eager drummer, who mercilessly pushed beats into dance-party time signatures. To be fair, on most of Toro Y Moi's tracks, this tempo switch-up was a blessing. Most of the band's set felt like the space-music that amusement parks play while listeners wait in line for Sci-Fi rides, and Bundick's wordless howls were reduced to a torrent of noise that sounded - in the cavernous Granada - dissonant and disjointed. (As demonstrated by his voice-cracking banter between songs, Bundick was obviously losing his voice; so, hey, we'll give him a break.)
After a short, echoing sound check, thudding drum beats, an eerie howl and a budding climax opened Caribou's set. Snaith's songs carried a sludgy, grungy weight in a live setting, rather than the airy shimmer of most of his indietronica peers.
Crashing drums that were almost startlingly intense reminded me of a storm erupting from rolling, menacing clouds into schizophrenic bursts of percussion and thunderous drums. Caribou's choruses could meander into monotone repetition, though songs would build into walls of screeching sound behind ingrained falsetto refrains, mimicking the building intensity of a thunderhead. (Let's put it this way: when some asshole behind me spilled beer on my ankles, it felt like a natural extension of the meteorological phenomenon pulsating on the Granada's stage.)
A psychedelic, spinning Petri dish spinning behind the band that offered glimpses of kalidascopic stills and, later, flowers. A warm hum took the antiseptic edge off of Snaith's electro soloing, and he warmed his unearthly, Thom Yorke-like falsetto with thudding heartbeats of bass.
Despite the electronic edge, Caribou's songs -- like the stomach-churning bass of "Odessa" -- sounded more like biological science than space. It's much like the way that organic matter can seem foreign when isolated, deconstructed, and magnified. This idea extends to Snaith's sound: Caribou's songs are individual components of traditional song structure, juxtaposed together in ways that are startlingly foreign, and yet eerily familiar. That's why dorky ravers, arty math majors and lanky boho girls found their toes tapping and hips swinging on Sunday night: for Caribou's organic grooves, it's only natural.