Caribou’s Really, Really Long Mixtape

In 2015, Caribou famously posted a 1,000-track mixtape that served as a journal of his musical discovery over the past few years. It’s a lot to digest, to say the least. The Canadian electronic artist has omnivorous taste, for one. New Wave freakout king Gary Wilson bumps up against a particularly eerie track from jazz icon Nina Simone. There’s disco legend Cerrone on the groovy “Got to Have Loving” and also lots and lots of Velvet Underground (of course). You don’t have to make sense of any of it, of course, but, if you squint just so, you can piece together Caribou’s own aesthetic roots.

The squiggling synth lines, and bouncy beat of “E.V.A” from Moog pioneer Jean-Jacques Perrey reflects Caribou’s own tendency to reconcile more experimental strains of electronic music with an overarching pop sensibility, while the hanging-off-the-bone, mandela hip-hop of Madlib is a natural fit for an artist who started his career focused on lo-fi psych sounds. The delicate, understated intensity of Caribou’s most recent album, 2015’s Our Love, is captured in tracks from Radiohead, Koushik, and Shuggie Otis, and house and disco-derived sounds figure in heavily—in addition to Cerrone, the playlist also contains Sylvester, Derrick May, Moodymann, Larry Heard, and Chez Damier—which tracks nicely with Caribou’s own pivot towards more dance-friendly beats for his Daphni project.

The original YouTube playlist was nearly one hundred hours of unsequenced music (in the note that came with the mix, Caribou suggests that it be listened to on shuffle), and it’s obviously sprawling. Even in this slightly abridged Spotify version—presumably, the 204 tracks not included here weren’t cleared for digital music services, sadly—it’s easy to get lost. Ultimately, this feels more like a radio station than a “mixtape” or a playlist. The listener lets it spin passively in the background, occasionally swooping in to figure out who exactly is doing what. The contextual editorial information that Spotify offers comes in handy—YouTube provides no similar key, and you’re constantly flitting between Google and YouTube to discover who the hell is Asa-Chang (a Japanese percussionist and leader of the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra) or Hal Blaine (Phil Spector’s go-to drummer). But this isn’t really an academic course as much as it is a party, or a celebration of the scattershot, sublime aesthetic of one of indie music’s most vital and unpredictable artists.