Begun as a means of making music to channel improvisatory immediacy, Dan Snaith’s Daphni project has fast been reaching the levels of notoriety enjoyed by his first group Caribou in the five years since its founding. Where Caribou’s live show and studio recordings are a complex interplay of arrangement, instrumentation and melody, straddling the line between movement and introspection, Daphni is a one-man show squarely aimed at the dancefloor. Snaith’s debut record as Daphni, 2012’s ‘Jiaolong’, was a rumbling confluence of acid synths and compressed percussion, topped off with soul vocal samples, West African rhythms, and twanging electronica. His DJ sets as Daphni in the years since ‘Jiaolong’ have been similarly diverse, yet punctuated by a unifying emphasis on groove, and with his forthcoming mix for the prestigious ‘Fabriclive’ series, Snaith-as-Daphni remains consistent.
Following in the tradition of Omar S, Shackleton and Ricardo Villalobos – a DJ who Snaith frequents the club to see – the Daphni ‘Fabriclive’ is comprised entirely of new music and edits, rather than a curated collection of other artists’ tracks. Again, this decision came from the ethos of spontaneity that underlies the Daphni project; beginning with a selection of new music to be interspersed amongst a regular set, Snaith then started making edits ‘in situ’ during the mix, manipulating songs to fit each other within the seamless flow of music. Before he could take a breath, he had completed the finished 75-minute mix of originals.
The result makes for a listening experience that plays like a thoughtfully sequenced record, rather than a mix in itself. This lack of uniformity is no bad thing though, since it allows Snaith to showcase his wide-ranging influences, from the funk rhythms redolent of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’ groove in opener ‘Face To Face’ to the jittering pulse of ‘Xing Tian’ and ‘Carry On’, to the melodic synth arpeggios of ‘Poly’. Highlights include the speeding Burial vibe of ‘Medellin’, the nostalgic house piano stabs and diverted pay-off of ‘Hey Drum’, and the acid squelch of ‘Tin’. Only four edits make their way into the final mix, yet rather than disrupt the clear sonic identity established by the Daphni originals, they provide an insight into Snaith’s influences and his ability to make them his own. For instance, Jamire Williams’ languorous ‘Futurism’ is given a melodic makeover to segue perfectly into ‘Poly’, while the Luther Davis Group’s funk number ‘You Can Be A Star’ brings out the latent hip-swinging present in the mix as a whole.
As the record progresses, it deepens and darkens, attendant with interspersions of melodic ambience and harmony. Tracks like ‘Nocturne’, ‘The Truth’, and ‘406.42 ppm’ provide the pleasing low-end speaker thump required of any fabric gathering, while closing track ‘Life’s What You Make It’ brings things down to calmer territory, drifting out into a twisted synth-pop melody.
Some listeners may find fault in the looseness with which the mix is put together and the unexpected results that the track pairings create (see the transition from the heavy rhythms of ‘Nocturne’ to the Craig David-sounding vocal samples of ‘So It Seems’, or the unashamed ‘70s funk of ‘Vs’), yet it is in these very moments that Snaith’s creative bravery and vision come to the fore, subverting the listener’s expectations to produce a mix worthy of the ‘FABRICLIVE’ stamp of approval.
Words: Ammar Kalia
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