Geogaddi is the Boards of Canada's next album, following the relaxing In a Beautiful Place Out In The Country and Music Has the Right to Children, Geogaddi finds the Scots exploring darker, more intense musical territory. The familiar elements are still present: warm, organic bass waves, lost & intelligent children's voices, the complicated almost oldskool drum sequencing. But on this, their 2002 release, something lurks beneath--and what that something is will be discovered by every listener independently. Fractural incantations of Aleister Crowley (perceived by this listener, not necessarily there) layered over playful hop scotch hemophilia.

Tracklist:

  • ready let's go
  • music is math
  • beware the friendly stranger
  • gyroscope
  • dandelion
  • sunshine recorder
  • in the annexe
  • julie and candy
  • the smallest weird number
  • 1969
  • energy warning
  • the beach at redpoint
  • opening the mouth
  • alpha and omega
  • i saw drones
  • the devil is in the details
  • a is to b as b is to c
  • over the horizon radar
  • down chorus
  • diving station
  • you can feel the sky
  • corsair
  • magic window
  • Gyroscope contains samples of a girl counting from the Conet Project. (Thanks Carthag).
    There was much fervour surrounding the release of Boards of Canada's new album, "Geogaddi". Their previous LP, "Music Has The Right To Children" had been hailed as a work of sheer perfection, and thus there was much speculation as to whether the new album would live up to expectations. Will they take a new angle altogether, or will it be more of the same?

    The answer is, after a fashion, 'more of the same' - but not in a bad way. The album is a full 66 minutes and 6 seconds, and - as with MHTRTC - contains both a series of 'song-length' tracks as well as the 'love-em-or-hate-em' short tracks. The overall sound is quite similiar to their earlier releases, but the mood is quite strikingly different.

    Whilst MHTRTC tends to be a cloud of childhood reminiscence, Geogaddi has been likened to an adolescent uncertainty. The tracks seem to fit together with more congruence than their previous LP, and the resulting narrative is a lot smoother as a result. One gets the feeling that when the pair put this album together they scrapped what would be, on their own, 'better tracks', for tracks that were a more appropriate fit with the album's mood and style.

    The first half hour tends to be a lot lighter than the second. Tracks such as 'Music Is Math' with it's wavering synth harmonies and squelchy beats, 'Sunshine Recorder' conjuring up images of time-stopped sunlight flowing across the countryside, and '1969' which sounds like a dream-interpreted 60's pop song, the message conveyed is overwhelmingly content, perhaps even optimistic.

    The latter half of the album really begins with 'The Beach At Redpoint', what sounds to me like an isolated couple's lone beach picnic turned not-quite-sour by a light rain shower. This track also marks the introduction of many more natural sounds, with eastern flutes and vocal samples echoing throughout.

    The mood becomes one of simultaneous awe and inner reflection. 'The Devil Is In The Details' is a delicate tapping melody/harmony with footsteps traipsing through puddles, a voice telling us to "Just relax, and enjoy this pleasant adventure." 'Over The Horizon Radar', for me, recalls ideas of technology reflecting nature - backwards synths offset by the gentle clicking of soft bells create a mood unparalelled in any art I've ever experienced. This track is followed by the superb 'Dawn Chorus', which has to be heard to be even vaguely understood. In fact, I think that pretty much goes for every track on the album - I won't waste any more space with my ramblings, trying to decribe a sound, let alone a song, is ridiculous.

    Interestingly, the final track of the album is titled 'Magic Window' and contains nothing more than 1:46 of pure silence. It has been suggested that this was to bump the overall playing time up to 66:06. Also there are a number of backward messages throughout the album, on the track 'A Is To B As B Is To C' in particular.

    Overall it's just fantastic. At first, devotees of the previous LP will be somewhat displaced, but after a number of attentive listens one becomes enchanted by the pure aural mastery that is Boards of Canada.

    Review of Boards of Canada's Geogaddi

    The mad scientist team at Boards of Canada, Marcus Eoin and Michael Sandison, spent the last few years in their Hexagon Sun Lab in the Scottish Highlands, toiling long into the night on their latest greatest invention. The project failed to fulfill their intentions, but the results are fascinating and have been released on CD and triple LP on Warp Records. So what exactly was the aim of this mad experiment? It was, as put on track 2 'Music is Math', to capture "the past inside the present". They built a time machine, and their destination, as the title of track 10 reveals, was 1969.

    So what kind of 1969 did they hope to capture inside 2002? From the results I'd say a 1969 with nothing to do with the Stooges, but maybe a little to do with Charles Manson and the end of the Sixties, and a bit of Neil Armstrong, Stanley Kubrick and David Bowie's space oddysseys too. But ultimately it is something completely new.

    Professors Eoin and Sandison fed all kinds of old junk into their machine, including a huge number of faded sun-bleached photographs and grainy, wobbly nature documentaries made by the National Film Board of Canada, distorted by thirty years of dust and sunlight. They also fed it the results of their previous explorations into their own nostalgically distorted childhood memories, which were released in 1998 as Music Has The Right to Children.

    They must have made a mistake somewhere in their complex calculations ('A is to B as B is to C', 'The Smallest Weird Number'), because the past that the time machine reproduced was even more distorted than these representations of it, with barely any resemblance to the real 1969 at all.

    In fact, its inventors inadvertently created a magnificent new world, which they christened Geogaddi. Probes into the unexplored territory took measurements with some of the team's other inventions, their 'Sunshine Recorder', 'Horizon Radar', and their own brand of 'Gyroscope'. Results showed temperatures far too high for humans to survive in. Geogaddi is a planet of almost unbearably beautiful fire and water, sunshine, dawns, beaches and horizons.

    Music Has the Right to Children, while frequently giving us the eerie feeling that there was something dark, dangerous and very bizarre lurking beneath the surface, was an album full of warm fuzzy synth sounds, laidback hip-hop beats, playful samples and pretty melodies. Geogaddi is a far bolder work, never aiming to merely comfort and soothe, always striving to move us profoundly. It is both brighter and darker: radiantly ominous. The title of track 3, 'Beware the Friendly Stranger', captures this sense that the darkness is closer to the surface, and the surface is thinner. There are less pretty melodies and less funky beats. Instead, simple chord progressions are used for maximum emotional impact, and loose ensembles of percussive sounds drive the feelings into us like a stake into a vampire's heart.

    But the area that this album makes the greatest advance in is texture. Those wonderfully cheesy synth tones have been almost completely abandoned in favour of sounds that bristle, glisten, crackle and sparkle. The progression is almost as great as that made by Aphex Twin from his first to second Selected Ambient Works. But unlike SAW Vol. 2, Geogaddi is also a work of dense layering of sounds. 'A is to B is to C' reminds me of 'Revolution 9'.

    I think that Boards of Canada's power to move the listener to another place is undeniably great, but the more important question is whether it is a place we would like to inhabit. The album starts with a thrilling but almost frustrating seven-track stretch of unnerving tension, culminating in 'Sunshine Recorder', whose eerie high-point is the ironic refrain "a beautiful place", a good example of the way BoC's trademark cute kid voices have now become damn creepy. The tense stretch is suddenly broken by the ecstatic release and impossible euphoria of 'Julie and Candy'. The airy flutes and slow-motion beats of this track make me think of walking through clouds. Its pleasures are all the richer as rewards for the long trek to get it.

    Similarly exhilarating is 'Dawn Chorus', on which the cracking vocal and My Bloody Valentinesque mammoth pitch-wavering sounds can't stay in tune under the weight of the track's immense grandeur. These tracks are uplifting in a deeply serious way, aware of their ephemeral nature where Music Has the Right's 'Roygbiv' was blissfully ignorant. The most deeply melancholic moment of all comes near the end with 'You Could Feel the Sky', whose vocal is by a sad old man rather than a happy child. Boards of Canada are as nostalgic on this album as they have ever been, but it is the sad nostalgia of remembering your life when close to death, not the excited nostalgia of reliving your childhood.

    For several reasons, Geogaddi isn't as immediately enjoyable as its predecessor, and doesn't give off the same kind of warm comforting glow. But it's a deeper work of greater power and beauty, and should eventually come to occupy an equally prominent place in your heart.

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