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Boards of Canada


(Warp; US: 19 Feb 2002)

Perhaps two of electronica’s more enigmatic composers, Marcus Eoin and Michael Sandison rerouted the direction of electronic music in 1998 when their debut LP, Music Has the Right to Children, dropped out of the sky. With its warbling minimalist melodies that materialize and ebb like specters, the album’s psychedelic feel stepped off the electronic autobahn and began meandering through a digital forest, but still remained isolated from the perpetually stale ambient genre.

Eoin and Sandison, fresh with the warm shower of critical approval, then released a couple of EPs in 1999 and 2000, but disappeared for two years to their reclusive commune lifestyle. Now, though, Boards of Canada has again summoned a family of musical spirits on their brand new album, Geogaddi.

For a few moments, it may sound like Boards of Canada doing what Boards of Canada does best. Melodies drip from your speakers, just barely reaching the level of a hushed whisper. Nature is mimetically invoked through digital means. Etc., etc. But even in this worst case of “just another BoC record”, zealous fans of their earlier work—like those who buy the duo’s early out-of-print vinyl-only releases for hundreds of dollars—and new recruits would still have few to no qualms.

But after the first 10 minutes, it becomes apparent that Geogaddi has a naturalism that the duo had previously attempted to find but was unable to fully grasp. Rich, hovering sonic explorations grow out of their binary soil of zeros and ones when paper-thin beats whisk and detune/retune their colorful melodies in spirals, as if smoke swirling in the air. On some tracks, the music’s melancholy smile appears so impossibly natural that, as the sounds of what seems to be wind and animals fade into existence, it becomes difficult to differentiate between composition and organic growth.

Referring to or describing any one track is utterly impossible because, as the album moves and grows, a perfect being is born from the flawlessly sewn progression of 23 tracks, unable to be isolated into individual songs. The keyboards never loosen their grasp, although it seems as if there is only very slight variation as one song blends into the next. At any given moment, though, three or four different two- to three-note progressions may be built up upon one another, and the bursting results require absolutely no active participation on the listener’s part to be fully absorbed. However, when paying particularly close attention, the listener is rewarded in finding a new strength in the music’s myriad delicacies. Everything from whispering voices and childrens’ laughter to the occasional post-modern Mille Plateaux sound find homes on the record, and this all contributes to the album’s triumph.

Geogaddi is successful as few other albums are. Whereas many artists and groups tend to released records composed of series of unrelated songs, songs based on single concepts, or songs written and recorded during single studio sessions, Boards of Canada’s latest has done something exponentially spectacular and commendable.

With Geogaddi Boards of Canada creates a world out of music. And every sound adds to the construction of this world. Valleys, rivers, plants, and animals manifest themselves, and even when the album ends it is difficult to step back into to reality because this aural existence becomes so real.

Boards of Canada’s unique style of composition blends the psychedelic with the electronic, the organic with the heavily processed, the (seemingly) analog with the digital to form an undeniable beauty. Soft-spoken yet magnanimous, Geogaddi is best explained through a sample on the record, “Just relax and enjoy is pleasant event . . .”

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