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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Boards Of Canada: Geogaddi


1) Ready Lets Go; 2) Music Is Math; 3) Beware The Friendly Stranger; 4) Gyroscope; 5) Dandelion; 6) Sunshine Recorder; 7) In The Annexe; 8) Julie And Candy; 9) The Smallest Weird Number; 10) 1969; 11) Energy Warning; 12) The Beach At Redpoint; 13) Opening The Mouth; 14) Alpha And Omega; 15) I Saw Drones; 16) The Devil Is In The Details; 17) A Is To B As B Is To C; 18) Over The Horizon Radar; 19) Dawn Chorus; 20) Diving Station; 21) You Could Feel The Sky; 22) Corsair; 23) Magic Window; 24) From One Source All Things Depend.

Most of the reviews here went like, "so yeah, they made an album that sounds almost exactly like Music Has The Right To Children, but who really cares to complain if it's so good?" A basic agreement with the first half of this statement on my part, then, would automatically presume disagreement with the presupposition of its second one. Once again, Boards Of Canada offer us a Modern Art Soundscape that will tremendously appeal to all those who have properly disclosed their minds towards Modern Art, as well as to many of those who like stuff just because it is Modern with a capital M (well, properly speaking, as of 2014 this is no longer a truly capital M, but new electronic records like these keep cropping up so often that Geogaddi might just as well have been released today and nobody would have noticed).

This here cranky old stubborn reviewer, though, still feels himself relatively immune to the seductive charms of the Lovin' Hums of Boards of Canada and their «ice-cold tones imbued with childish spirit(s)» ideology, no matter how many glowing counter-opinions he encounters. And this happens even despite a little more emphasis on the atmosphere here than on the beats — there are still plenty of beats, but they do not feel nearly as integral to the sound, perhaps because of numerous small beatless linking tracks, many of which sound like teenagers having fun with some decrepit, million-times-broken church organ in the ruins of a bombed church. Even so, this does not automatically move the record onto the «awesome» shelf.

Straining and overloading my brains, I could probably visualize the world Geogaddi as some sort of purgatory for dead children — a tense and nervous waiting room where nothing much happens except for waiting, although the room is divided into separate sections with their own acoustics and furnishings and micro-climates, and we lazily drift from one room to another for sixty-six minutes and six seconds (a running length suggested to the duo by Warp Records president Steve Beckett as a joke — although, in order to realize it, they had to include a 1:46 track of utter silence ʽMagic Windowʼ, inadvertently, but shamelessly ripping off John Cage in the process). Such a visualization helps tolerate the length and makes the process slightly more amusing, yet it is still not enough to elevate it any higher. I mean, what's the real big difference between watching real paint dry on the walls of your house, or watching imaginary paint dry on the ima­ginary walls of the purgatory office for dead children? Perhaps in the first few minutes, yes, but then the distinction begins to fade away anyway.

Maybe it has something to do with how «buzzy» their mourning droning is. The tones they choose are always sad, and their repetitiveness brings on associations with inescapable doom, but there is hardly any depth to this sound at all. Just to remind myself that I have not become totally insensitive to this stylistics, I put on Brian Eno's ʽSpider And Iʼ — an electronic composition written very much in that same ice-cold stylistics twenty-five years back, and, thank God, was immediately emotionally smitten and overwhelmed exactly the same way that I was smitten when I'd first heard it. In comparison, something like ʽSunshine Recorderʼ or ʽ1969ʼ here sounds bot­tomless, baseless, feather-light and instantly forgettable. Is it just a difference in technology? Is it related to the fact that the old electronic guys, with their massive circuit boards and «stone age electronics», were by the very nature of their equipment capable of wringing more depth out of it than modern electronic wizards with their triumphantly miniaturized arsenals? Or does it simply mean that Brian Eno was a genius, while Michael and Marcus are merely inventive craftsmen?

I have no answer to these questions, but I do know for sure that there is not a single track here that inspires me to write anything about it, substantial or not. I acknowledge the craft, I admit the inventiveness, and I am vaguely touched by the kids on the bonus track ʽFrom One Source...ʼ (where they overdub various snippets of children reciting prayers or describing God — far more emotionally endearing than the actual music, I'd say), but that's about it. No thumbs down, but no promotion of this piece as an «electronic masterpiece» or anything by no means, either: the am­bitions and pretense of Geogaddi (which begin already with its undecipherable title) rise much higher than what seems to be its genuine musical value. At the very least, do not rush to conclu­sions until you are well soaked in the electronic legacy of «The Old Masters» — against whose background Geogaddi, I am afraid, feels relatively conservative and shallow, despite all the hoopla.


  1. I think that the major difference between Boards of Canada and (to use your example) Brian Eno is that the latter made a point of finding just the right notes to animate his strange sounds, while the Scotsmen are generally content with the sounds themselves (which are, in fact, also produced with those good old analog synthesizers). I love this album myself, but I recognize that its effect lies entirely in its hazy, enveloping atmospheres, rather than in any "purely musical" merit.

    Tomorrow's Harvest surprised me by focusing a lot more on melody and structure than its predecessors had, so I think that you might have more of an appreciation for that one...

    1. You must be kidding? Structure, perhaps, but Tomorrow's Harvest is a compositionally bankrupt entity. Relying on chords and generic arpeggios. NONE of the "magic" BOC melodic style exists on that album.

  2. Moments of this album are pure evil. Possibly as good as Music...

  3. This one really does the trick for me. Absolutely haunting stuff

  4. Brian Eno Brian Eno. Brian Eno. Brian Eno? Brian Eno, Brian Eno. Brian Eno! Brian Eno Brian Eno? Brian Eno. Brian Eno, Brian Eno.