In light of the 10 year anniversary of Up in Flames, we celebrate the myriad influences and inspirations that went into creating Dan Snaith’s inimitable sophomore album for Caribou (originally released under Manitoba). From free jazz to ‘60’s psych, hip-hop to dance music, it truly takes a village to raise a child in this case, as Up in Flames is fostered by decades’ worth of affluent material.
A record that dared to be inventive and overwhelming, a cultured and measured instruction on the possibility of charming psychedelic pop music, Up in Flames will receive a proper reissue next month on Record Store Day in celebration. Revisit the album below, then dissect its DNA.
“Section IX” – The orchestration and production work that went into the drum samples and live instrumentation on Up in Flames are reminiscent of Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians. Precise but never plotting, it’s measured out in a way that still feels natural, a formula that “Bijoux” owes its charm to.
Boards of Canada
“Sixtyten” – Snaith’s early work, Up in Flames included, can’t go mentioned without the obligatory Boards of Canada comparison. But for good reason, as the two groups borrow a great deal from the “IDM” genre, a now gentrifried but then important portion of electronic music that worked to engage the listener’s mind more than their feet. While it’s maybe not as obvious as some of Snaith’s other albums and projects, there’s no doubt Music Has The Right To Children was on repeat over Snaith’s stereo.
“Reflections in the Plastic Pulse” – The ‘90s belong to Stereolab. Their genre-bending, magnificent sound was one that defined a generation of underground alt-rockers. Not only does Up in Flames play out like Dots & Loops on speed, Snaith’s career has mirrored that of Stereolab in the way he has so consistently yet successfully shifted genres and influences from one record to the next.
Peter Gordon & Love of Life Orchestra
“Siberia” – Similar to Albert Ayler, Peter Gordon played a huge role in manufacturing the sound that eventually drove Up in Flames. The disco drums and booming brass segments that Snaith hangs his hat upon are the kind of unique, inspiring movements that made Love of Life Orchestra’s Geneva an underground sensation.
“Solitary Man” might have the least to do with Up in Flames as the rest of these artists, but Neil Diamond’s late 1960s output was varied and triumphant, a veritable master of the country folk anthem and more than likely an influence on Snaith’s recordings. Look no further than Diamond’s shifting vocals and horn accompanied chorus, the same kinds of patterns that Snaith was so obsessed with during this time.
“I Can See For Miles” – The guitar work on “Twins” is a better tribute to “I Can See For Miles” than any Who cover band could muster. Possibly the most obvious influence on the album, as it’s essentially ripped from the original, “Twins” is as traditional as songwriting gets on Up in Flames.
“Heroes and Villains” – What can be said about Brian Wilson’s talents that hasn’t already been said? Very little, as it were. Wilson’s limitless vocals and timeless songwriting transformed pop music for all time, and on Up in Flames, Snaith apes just a bit of Wilson’s more psychedelic elements to inform the album’s hymn-like chanting.
“Sing Swan Song” (Live) – The list of bands Can hasn’t influenced is a short one, and one Dan Snaith is certainly absent from. The seminal krautrock outfit and their revelatory album Ege Bamyasi certainly helped lend a hand in the production of Up in Flames, especially as “Sing Swan Song” plays out like a line item budget for Snaith’s.
“Cardboard Watch” – Another classic psych record from the ‘60s, The End’s Introspection is one of Bill Wyman’s productions. A swirling, youthful take on folk rock, it informing tracks like “Hendrix With A K.O.” and “Crayon”. Snaith’s connection to The End isn’t as obvious as others, but the energy that emanates so many decades later from Introspection is mirrored throughout the whole of Up in Flames.
“Questions” – This group’s self-produced 1972 album was their only output, but it didn’t stop them from leaving a lasting mark on British rock. A Game For All Who Know might not shine through on Up in Flames, but there has rarely been an interview in years where Snaith hasn’t mentioned Ithaca’s sole album.
“Ghosts” – Few artists capture the very spirit of music in the way jazz composer Albert Ayler always managed. His formless, aggressive saxophone play informed a great deal of the saxophone samples on Up in Flames. Look no further than “Skunks” or B-side “Cherrybomb” for an example of such inspiration.