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Cherry Review

by Heather Phares

One of the greatest strengths of Dan Snaith's music as Daphni is its refreshing directness. Ever since Jiaolong, however, he's brought more unpredictability into the project's seemingly back-to-basics style. The companion pieces Fabriclive 93 and Joli Mai were equally adventurous in their own ways: the former showcased Snaith the DJ crafting an irresistible set, while the latter focused on Snaith the producer with a dozen ideas in his pocket. Though it's more self-contained, Cherry also reconciles Daphni's different sides in unexpected and inspired ways. The sped-up samples and gritty, slightly muffled beats of "Arrow" -- which does indeed burst forth like it was shot from a bow -- are fundamental to Daphni's sound, but there's a luxeness to the vocals and synth tones that feels fresh. Snaith's experiments work especially well when he plays with the momentum of Cherry's songs. On the Detroit techno-inspired title track, the build from its mighty kick drum to silvery FM synths to the rubbery tones that weave in and out suggests that it could keep going forever -- until a split-second pause creates a tectonic shift. It's a technique Snaith employs just as skillfully on "Mania," where brief, purposeful breaks ground jittery rhythms and synths that ripple into the stratosphere. Cherry also offers some of Daphni's most inventive and varied use of space within each track. On Jiaolong and Joli Mai, Snaith captured the energy of a packed crowd moving and sweating together on the dancefloor. He still honors that feeling on "Mona" and "Take Two," a piece of shimmying disco house that starts in media res like it was casually dropped into the mix, but he generates just as much excitement with "Karplus," where the dancefloor seems to have been replaced with a trampoline. Things get even more abstract on "Crimson," which unfurls synth arpeggios with such mercurial fluidity that it sounds like music computers might create for their own dancing pleasure. Interludes like this and "Falling," a brief glimpse of bewitching filter disco, leave listeners wanting more and make Cherry's longer tracks all the richer. Chief among them is "Cloudy," where simple elements -- a nimble piano loop, a chopped vocal sample, a bustling beat -- combine in a fascinatingly elliptical orbit that somehow remains danceable. Here and throughout Cherry, Snaith creates a new kind of tension in Daphni's music, as well as a spontaneity that seduces his audience into movement ever more cleverly.

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