Manitoba is comfortable with contrasts. The unassuming 22-year-old electronic music producer, known to family and friends as Dan Snaith, studied piano from the age of five and holds his Master's in pure mathematics. Now based in Toronto, Snaith grew up in the small town of Dundas, Ontario, augmenting his classical and jazz studies with a steady diet of prog and psychedelic rock, classic pop à la the Beatles and the Byrds, and later hip-hop and electronic sounds.
One might expect Manitoba to be a serious gear geek, making deliberately out-there sounds for an exclusively electro-literate crowd. Yet for all his training, talents and analytic skills, Dan Snaith creates warm, inviting, deceptively simple works. His strong sense of melody, pop sensibility, and left field listening habits have resulted in Start Breaking My Heart, a stunning debut album filled with experimental yet accessible sounds.
"It's about making songs, even if on a somewhat subconscious level," he says of his work. "I do think of it much like verse, chorus, like: Here's a melody that's going to run throughout, then there'll be another melody that comes in and so on. That's also what I like to hear, from listening to indie and folkie weird stuff.
"I'm glad that more and more electronic music is becoming melodic, because I don't necessarily think there's any good reason to make music that's deliberately obtuse," he continues. "Human beings want to hear melodies and I don't think there's anything wrong with giving them. The thing I love about Aphex Twin, for example, is that it's technological music with really simple, beautiful melodies that get stuck in your head and make you feel something. I think that often really simple music resonates with people."
Manitoba's sly, subtle and deeply original music certainly does. Both his debut EP and album (released on the UK's Leaf label) are causing quite a stir in Europe, garnering rave reviews and invites for Snaith to DJ in London, Paris and beyond. Much is being made of the unique feel Manitoba's music possesses, something he's trying to decipher himself.
"I don't really understand where I fit in," he laughs. "People always surprise me when they're like This album sounds really different.' To me it sounds like what's going through my head all the time. It felt so isolated growing up and I think that's why maybe the weird mix of hippie rock and indie influences mixed with electronic music. I didn't grow up reading Jockey Slut and NME every week, so there are some things that I totally missed out on. I think that's really good."