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Manitoba (a.k.a. Caribou)


Manitoba (a.k.a. Caribou) - Start Breaking My Heart

Start Breaking My Heart
Leaf/Domino - 2001


Michael Panontin
Laptop whiz Dan Snaith spent much of his childhood sequestered just outside Dundas, Ontario, falling victim to the usual small-town suspects of mullets, questionable prog rock and late nights with the radio dial locked into the oasis of alternative programming. While a student at the University of Toronto, Snaith moved on to free jazz, snapping up records by Coltrane and Ayler, all the while stocking his bedroom studio with cheap Radio Shack microphones and rudimentary Yamaha keyboards. A chance meeting with Kieran Hebden (of Four Tet) would net the still bushy-tailed Snaith a record deal with the small U.K. Leaf label, eventually leading to the captivating leftfield electronics of 2001's Start Breaking My Heart, released originally as Manitoba, but later reissued as Caribou.

Unlike Snaith's later records, which occupy a more orthodox rock plain, Start Breaking My Heart can be safely filed under electronica. The disc is a virtual panoply of infectious rhythm samples, as on the cacophonous 'Mammals and Reptiles', where thunderous bass drums mess with manic cymbals and crazed background horns. Other tracks offer hints of the more sublime. The muted keyboards (think Cluster) and hushed Free Design samples on 'People Eating Fruit' are deftly coated with downright danceable beats. The mostly disparate sounds on Start Breaking... intermingle more than collide, like the relatively straightforward 'Dundas, Ontario', which features exotic African percussion alongside its more club-friendly drumming. The closer, the aptly chosen 'Happy Ending', is picture perfect - euphoric and uplifting, yet with its rhythmic complexity still intact.

As luck would have it, the buzz stirred up by Start Breaking My Heart caught the attention of one Handsome Dick Manitoba, himself long banished to the fringes of rock and roll obscurity as the nearly forgotten frontman of seventies proto-punks the Dictators. The erstwhile rocker, at the time running a bar in New York's East Village, had trademarked his name, threatening legal action if Snaith continued performing as Manitoba. After initially brushing off the cease-and-desist orders, understandably, as the work of a lunatic, Snaith soon realized the man was serious when he was greeted backstage in L.A. - at a show backing up his faves Stereolab - by a man claiming to be Snaith's brother. Snaith, who has a sister but no brother, opened the door anyway, and in keeping with that hoary old Hollywood cliche, was promptly served a subpoena by a shadowy private investigator. But rather than suck up valuable creative energy and resources (estimates were upwards of $200,000) fighting such an absurd case, Snaith let wisdom be his guide, thenceforth recording as Caribou, with Start Breaking My Heart and its follow-up Up in Flames ultimately reissued in 2006 under that new moniker.

         


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     Manitoba (a.k.a. Caribou)


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