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Daphni DaphniJiaolong

8.5 / 10

“I've been surprised by the number of transcendent moments that I, sober and in my mid-30s, have had in clubs in the last few years, both as a punter and as a DJ ”. This statement by Dan Snaith contains the essence of his Daphni project and, by extension, its debut album “Jiaolong”. The thing is that although Snaith has been DJing since he was just a lad, he really became associated with dance music in 2010 with Caribou’s Swim” . Besides becoming a provider of club ammo, his new position led him to re-encounter his facet as a DJ, an activity that in recent months has been taking up almost as much of his time as live shows with his band.

Among other things, a good DJ must have a voracious appetite for new blood. An almost physical need for new material to DJ at the weekend. Dan Snaith’s got it, and as his DJ bookings have multiplied, this drive has only gotten stronger. So what did Snaith do when Friday was rolling around and he wasn’t satisfied with the week’s offerings? He produced tracks to DJ. And so Daphni was born, as well as the music on this album. A track like “Ye Ye”, for example, couldn’t have come out of a long session in the studio. Its vivacity could only have bubbled up from capturing the early energy of an idea at its purest, in this case, sculpted around a sample from Nigerian musician William Onyeabor.

An eye to Africa is one of the work’s main constants. Beyond the aforementioned sample of Onyeabor or the brilliant reconstruction of Cos-Ber-Zam’s “Ne Noya”, tracks like “Light” and “Pairs”, two of the four previously unreleased cuts included on the album (the other five had only been available on vinyl), re-contextualise afro-beat sounds based on their collision with the nervous sounds coming from the modular built by Snaith himself. This juxtaposition of the organic and the synthesized, an extension of Snaith’s way of understanding sessions (there’s that clubber influence again) turns out to be another of the elements that the album’s discourse revolves around. These pairings are often deliberately contrasting, like on “ Yes I Know” when a soul sample suddenly comes up out of a tangle of synthetic arpeggios. On paper it shouldn’t work at all, but Snaith has proven himself as an alchemist, and his magic holds up here. This contrast of elements once again gives excellent results in the already-known “Jiao”, here again with one eye on afro and the other on point-blank house. In “Springs”, on the other hand, the power struggle puts the focus on the rhythmic component (there’s a reason why this is one of the aspects that Snaith has mastered the best and used the most frequently over the years), managing to put together organic drums and a beat taken from ghetto house in a totally natural way. The choice of “Long”, another of the previously unreleased cuts, to close the album is no coincidence, as it is also the most gliding song of the lot, a cosmic odyssey that strays the furthest from the album’s overall sound, leaving all doors open for whatever comes next from the project.

In spite of being more a collection of tracks than an album per se, Daphni’s discourse is so solid that the work operates perfectly as a coherent unit, especially because the nine cuts that make it up have a thoroughly defined function; besides mirroring Snaith’s fruitful vision of dance music, “Jiaolong” is an argument for the expressive richness of music made for clubs. It’s a manifesto that rebels against the impoverished discourse of the main trends in EDM and reclaims the infinite resources of a music that is too often poorly understood. It’s definitely a celebration of all of those revealing moments that we referred to at the beginning and which can still be experienced today on a dance floor. A great triumph.

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