Published Jan 01, 2006Success, like life itself, is bound to breed anxiety in anyone constantly craving growth. Twenty-four year-old producer Dan Snaith, aka Manitoba, is no slouch when it comes to facing fears and expectations head on. Choosing to side-step the sweet, delicate electronic sounds that resulted in much international acclaim for his Start Breaking My Heart debut, Dan has created a modern day masterpiece by following instinct rather than formula.
Up In Flames is both referential and reverential, winking, nodding and dancing while Snaith gleefully shares his long-time passion for great pop melodies, from the Beach Boys to My Bloody Valentine. The album is noisy, joyous, and spilling over with an excitement that its deft creator worked hard to tap into.
"I was sure that I was never going to put this album out for most of the time that I was making it," shares the Dundas, Ontario native. "For the first little bit, I was like I've got all this good press making an album that sounds like this,' and These people like it because it has this sinewave and drum machine kind of sound,' and all the things you're totally not supposed to think. That's obviously not the way to develop or do something you're happy with."
Doing something you love is. Snaith created his sophomore release exactly as he did while living in Toronto and making Manitoba's first in a tiny bedroom studio with just enough equipment to sample favourite snatches of both records and himself playing instruments, including guitar, keyboards and glockenspiel. The biggest difference is that this time particularly with Dan's move to London, England for Ph.D. studies in pure mathematics many eyes and ears were upon him. He lived with song ideas for a long while, honing pieces clearly connected to his earlier work, but different in tone.
"The first year or so, I was really confused and frustrated. I couldn't figure out the sound that I wanted. The one conscious thing I did decide about this album was that I was so bored of really minimal, small but pretty electronic music. I wanted to do something bigger that held a wider palette of sounds.
"The thing that struck me while touring around, especially in Europe, is that a lot of people choose only listen to electronic music recorded between specific periods say 1998 to 2000 on such and such labels. It just blew my mind, like If these are the people that are really, really into my album, I've done something wrong. This isn't me at all. I couldn't listen to more of a variety of music.'"
Indeed, the classically trained pianist has long professed his passion for sounds ranging from jazz and psychedelic rock to pop, hip-hop and warm, leftfield electronics. Up in Flames more than steps up to the plate, giving us both Dan Snaith, the geeky, melody-obsessed music freak, and Manitoba, the brilliant block-rocking mind.
We can hear it all in tracks such as the free-jazz meets "Dear Prudence" stunner "Skunks," the Beach Boys circa Pet Sounds informed "Bijoux," and the scorching "Hendrix With KO," which finds Dan and vocalist Koushik (a Dundas homey) treading turf not touched so beautifully since Kevin Shields was in top form. It's little wonder that artists such as Mr. Scruff, Seelenluft, the Notwist and Super Furry Animals have come calling for Manitoba remixes. Rarely has fandom sounded this pure or accomplished.
"To me, this album's a big return to Dundas," says a happy Snaith. "The first album I made while listening to music that was really contemporary, like Four Tet, Boards of Canada and stuff like that. This album was way more about being irritated and frustrated by London and how shitty the actual music that I was hearing was, withdrawing into my room, and dancing around until four a.m. Not that in any sense it's a retro album, but it was a going back, kind of ignoring any influence other than the Dundas weirdness in musical influences. It seems way more Canadian to me somehow, even if it's primarily influenced by a bunch of British bands."