Album: Boards of Canada

Geogaddi, Warp Records
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Since their 1998 debut album, Music Has the Right to Children – on which the music was literally steeped in children's voices – the reclusive Scots synthesists Boards of Canada have become the most hotly touted electronica act since Aphex Twin, and Geogaddi the genre's most eagerly awaited release in years. Comprising 23 limpid, Eno-esque instrumentals, some little more than brief sketches, it's a pleasant ride for the most part. Its loops, samples and synth drones drift along on understated rhythm tracks, whose beats flip-flop into reverse and back, the drift occasionally inhabited by a semi-intelligible vocal phrase. There are some quite beautiful moments, as when the piano figure in "Diving Station" is swept away by a wind of electronic noise, like a memory too fleeting to register. The best track, "Music is Math", bears out its title by sounding like a cross between Bach and breakbeat, with waves of synthesiser and ethereal vocoder vocal sucked into a deep dub whirlpool. The titles of tracks such as "Dawn Chorus" and "The Beach at Redpoint" are similarly evocative of their content, the latter a charming example of the "landscape" style of ambient electronica. But as with much such music, these are largely uninhabited landscapes: even when voices are involved, they're just half-overheard fragments of speech, like hearing the wrong side of a telephone conversation down a poor line. For some pieces, they provide much-needed ghosts amid the machine-music. In others they simply sound trapped, an additional layer of eerieness to add to the general air of unease.