Boards Of Canada : Geogaddi

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.

Kitty Empire