Review Summary: For Tomorrow: A Guide to Contemporary British Music, 1988-2013 (Part 59)
In an alternate timeline, Boards of Canada made a killing creating comfortable mood music. So much of their output edges right up to chill but it never becomes comfy. You can’t really sink into the plushness of a Boards of Canada song because the deeper you go the more unsettling it gets. Like its predecessor, Geogaddi
contains the decayed synths and fuzzy vocal samples from those days your Biology teacher sent you down the hall to wheel the big TV and VCR into the room. But unlike its predecessor, your mom administered the wrong dosage of Ritalin that morning and now the tape is playing too fast in your brain. All the elements from Music has the Right to Children
are still intact but they feel panicky, too fast, and off in subtle ways.
Here’s a fun game for you. Next time you and a batch of chums are high as hell and looking to chill, throw on Geogaddi
’s “The Devil in the Details”. Superficially it should fit the occasion. The tempo is slow, there are no drums, and the echoing synth trails off into the comforting horizon. But what is that vocal? “Just relax and enjoy this pleasant adventure,” it says, “Here you are, secure and protected, in this, your special place.” Should be fine, but it’s all wrong, chopped up, twisted through the synths, and lowered in pitch so that the voice becomes an indecipherable growl. It’s weird and totally not chill bro.
This is where Boards of Canada, almost exclusively, reside. In the gap between calm and fright. Much of their music is constructed like moments right before jump scares in horror movies, eerily calm with the nagging sense that something is waiting around the corner. “You Could Feel the Sky” prominently features a sound not unlike the creak of an old floorboard under your foot. “Beware the Friendly Stranger” (Sheesh, title alone) is 38 seconds of ominously rustled leaves and off kilter carousel melody. “Gyroscope” thunders down on you with a merciless rage, leaving only enough air for a panicked child to count seemingly random numbers. “Sunshine Recorder” is “Turquoise Hexagon Sun”’s spiritual sequel, as it too goes wandering about the woods except whatever light crept in the latter has been snuffed out in the former. These are dark lands and it's Boards of Canada’s exclusive domain here. There’s nobody else in electronic music that can conjure feelings like this, a gnawing terror stretching back to pre-pubescent classroom anxieties.
But, like in Music Has the Right to Children
, the fear and tension is there to bring the beauty into magnificent focus. “Over the Horizon Radar” is nothing but gently pressed synths over a comforting breeze while “Dawn Chorus” sports massive, brain cleansing synth washes over a loping breakbeat. It’s the closest Geogaddi
comes to the bliss of “Roygbiv” but a pitched cry prevents pure nirvana.
If nothing else, Geogaddi
emphasizes just how readily accessible Music Has the Right to Children
was by being its far more difficult sequel. That album readily gave itself over to beauty on multiple occasions with that lingering dread more relegated to the sidelines. Geogaddi
does what a followup to a classic should do. It continues exploring the sonic terrain laid out by its predecessor while treating its audience like thinking human beings in the sense that it always challenges and never panders. Geogaddi
travels to some weird places, but it trusts you enough to follow it. It’s a worthy journey every time.