Caribou Marino: The Videos DVD/CD

[Domino/Leaf; 2005]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: electronica, psychedelic, krautrock, IDM
Others: Four Tet, Can, Neu!, Boards of Canada

It's an age-old story. Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy nearly drowns and is rescued by giant seahorses. Such is the fantastical logic of Delicious 9's narrative vision in Caribou's Marino. The DVD is a collection of all the videos the Dublin-based animation collective produced for Caribou's last two albums, The Milk of Human Kindness and Up in Flames (as Manitoba), as well as their supporting tours. As the backdrop for Caribou's live show, it was nearly impossible to understand these videos as anything more than random and risible images impressively locked in time with the band. The ability to watch the videos at home with the studio tracks allows for both a better understanding of how the videos interact with Caribou's music and an appreciation of the videos themselves.

Watching Delicious 9's videos is like tapping into the imagination of a precocious, benignly disturbed, and darkly hilarious young boy. D9 plays with the settings and props of childhood (fairytales, cartoons, romance, merry go rounds, stuffed animals, puppets) in such a way as to break these objects from being merely motifs of pre-adolescent nostalgia. Many videos are animated with an off-kilter visual style that often uses intentionally rough, Monty Python-esque paper cut-outs. This style gives them a wicked twist, and the animation appears slightly sinister, as if generated to represent some bizarre version of our world. All the videos are sequenced with the aural cues of Caribou's heavily percussive and eclectic style. They are vibrant, whimsical, smart, and sometimes psychedelic (I find the video for Hendrix w/ KO horrific, but that has more to do with my general distrust of and extreme aversion to puppets than with the video itself), but never boring.

The above analogy finds form in the video for "Skunks," which serves as a means of approaching Delicious 9's underlying aesthetic in rendering Caribou's music into visual content. The video opens with a dreary, overcast, and somewhat industrial-looking skyline as viewed by a young boy staring out of an apartment window. He is wearing a pig mask, and, while you cannot see the expression on his face, you can tell that, shoulders slumped and head sagging, he's not too excited by the vista before him. The boy turns away from the window and walks over to his sketching desk where, by crayon, he begins to draw a stick figure playing the drums whose movements line up with the actual beat of the song.

The crudely drawn drummer begins to take on three-dimensional qualities as he lays down the beat. The camera pans out, and the boy's hand begins to illustrate an entire world of rudimentarily drawn people, houses, cars, and airplanes, all in sequence with the music. The boy, dissatisfied with his reality and the masks he either feels he has to wear or feels has been forced on him, creates his own fantastic reality through his drawings as inspired by the music. This celebration of art's boundless potential for play as an alternative to reality might be the tie unifying this media mix, as, besides the sequencing aspects, Delicious 9's animation seems to stem from the collective's own visual interpretations of Caribou's music.

Delicious 9's videos not only mark art as a transcendent outlet, but some videos manage to re-contextualize and defamiliarize commonplace images to help us unpack aspects of reality we've grown to ignore through the numbing effects of habit or categorization. In "Brahminy Kite," a montage of film and animation, a face slowly reduces from its video image into a black and white animated outline of its basic form, while sped-up footage of city streets and automobile traffic eventually transform into the repeated image of a single car. Rather than positing the argument that our reality is composed of innumerable automobiles, faces, and simulacra of objects, it feels like Delicious 9 reduces these images to their basic form to illuminate the inherent similarities among things, and to help level categorical differences between objects, much like how Caribou's music in general incorporates so many musical genres into a unique and intelligible whole.

Caribou's music is, in itself, a fascinating world of musical play where random sounds and diverse styles ("Skunks" is composed of croaking frogs, free jazz horns, break beat drums, orchestra bells, and dancehall bass lines) seamlessly coexist. Only from music like this could Delicious 9 create such strange and playful videos, setting the music in far off worlds home to break-dancing birds and stuffed animal bands, and have them work with wondrous success — all without trumping your own internal cinematography, as some condemn the results of these sorts of collaborations to do. That art helps us to understand, or "see," reality (or other forms of art) in novel ways is a fundamental and well-trodden position regarding the goal of all art, but when this goal is actually fulfilled the effects never cease to be startling or invigorating.

The DVD's special feature is Delicious 9's narrative for The Milk of Human Kindness, which pairs the album's video with an amusing script. The videos produced for The Milk of Human Kindness utilize more CGI-type animation, probably due to a bigger budget and better technology, but the older videos retain their charm and ingenuity despite their juxtaposition with the quality of the newer videos. Marino also includes a bonus CD of four previously unreleased instrumental tracks that are way more substantial musically than the lukewarm Tour EP released earlier this year. This DVD/CD package should please most Caribou fans, as well as those into art and media crossovers, and will hopefully inspire more cross-pollination and convergences between mediums.

DVD Tracks:
1. Yeti
2. A Final Warning
3. Lord Leopard
4. Bees
5. Hello Hammerheads
6. Brahminy Kite
7. Pelican Narrows
8. Barnowl
9. I've Lived on a Dirt Road All My Life
10. Skunks
11. Jacknuggeted
12. Hendrix With KO
13. Bijoux
14. Twins
15. Crayon
16. Every Time She Turns Round Its Her Birthday
CD tracks:

1. The Barn
2. Marino
3. Handelschnapp
4. Sunsesame