Second LP of rural electronica...
To say that anticipation is high for the second album by the Boards of Canada
would seem, fittingly enough, to be a bit of an understatement. After bewitching
electronica cognoscenti with their debut LP ‘Music Has The Right To Children’, it’s
Scottish creators Marcus Eoin and Michael Sandinson have effectively shunned a
limelight which could have been theirs for the taking.
So speculation about their second album is rife. The Internet runs white hot with
rumour, and there’s talk of demon faces in the cover art. What the title (or
indeed any of it all means) is up for debate. To add to the excitement, no preview
copies of the album were distributed. Instead, Warp hosted two playbacks in churches.
Turquoise plastic hexagons, Boards’ fetish shape, replaced the hymnbooks. Warp’s
listening room, where NME sneaks a second hearing, is turquoise, but – tantalisingly –
one wall short of a hexagon.
This kind of obsession with detail is all very Boards Of Canada. ‘Geogaddi’ is
deliciously saturated with the recurring motifs which immediately marked them out
as an individual voice in electronic music. The noises of childhood. Relaxed rural
idylls suddenly disturbed by fierce breakbeats. All in all it’s a meeting of the
natural with the digital, and here it’s eerier than ever before. There’s a piece
called ‘The Devil Is in The Detail’, and it’s downright sinister. A child cries
out repeatedly as a scary woman leads a self-hypnosis session – far more Blair
Witch than ‘A Beautiful Place Out In The Country’.
If there’s a pattern to be seen in ‘Geogaddi’, it’s that Boards are subtly
distorting all of their signature elements: a bit like My Bloody Valentine,
who the group have talked approvingly of in the past, there’s a lot going on in
the background. The mighty ‘Dawn Chorus’ for example, recalls ‘Loveless’ in it’s
heavy reverb and the disorientating multi-directional nature of its music. Comfort
and clarity, however, are not altogether lost. There are many more bucolic vistas
here – like ‘The Smallest Weird Number’ – and sweet broadcasts about volcanos
(‘Dandelion’) and conserving energy (‘Energy Warning’) set to
melancholic thrums. Yet most often the voices and melodies are uneasy, just out
of reach, but no less insistent for it.
It’s easily the electronic album of the year, but for all that, it doesn’t
break particularly new ground. The point more is that what ground is broken
is done so with exquisite artistry: ‘Geogaddi’ has an emotional depth and a sublime accessibility
unequalled by more intellectual or obnoxious electronic exercises. It boasts
great tunes – ‘1969’ rocks particularly hard – and is mined with sufficient
riddles and sonic will o’ the wisps to delight and confound for a long time.