The Milk of Human Kindness

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Dan Snaith's recordings as Manitoba exuded a flair for recycling the most enthusiastic of early-'90s indie rock within the context of a one-man production band. Slightly naïve and only a passable songwriter, he nevertheless compensated with his gushing productions and the sort of breathless vocals that only a newcomer can imbue with such pleasure. After dealing with a slight setback (Handsome Dick Manitoba's baffling appropriation of the name, which led to Snaith's subsequent rebirth as Caribou), he proves on The Milk of Human Kindness that his compositional powers have grown during his five years on the scene. (The seven-minute "A Final Warning," with its smooth, ebb-and-flow glissandos, is easily his most accomplished production yet.) Unfortunately, although Snaith may sound novel expanding upon his indie forebears of ten years ago, when he begins conjuring the ghosts of Krautrock ("A Final Warning," "Bees") or trip-hop ("Lord Leopard"), as he does here, he's entering the company of talented producers who have ploughed the same ground (Stereolab and DJ Shadow, most obviously). The opener and first single, "Yeti," is one of the prime disappointments, a one-note rocker that attempts to strike the same chord as Snaith's previous classic "Hendrix With Ko" with nothing like the same results. Similar however, to what happened on Up in Flames (his final Manitoba record), dedicated listeners will find excellent material on the second half of the record. As Snaith straightforwardly hums his choruses on the minimalist folk of "Hello Hammerheads," or conjures Robert Wyatt with the eccentric, driving pop of "Brahminy Kite," he shows that he still has plenty of room to roam to be bothered messing around with second-rate imitations of long-dead styles.

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