"Geogaddi" is the second, hotly anticipated, album by the Edinburgh duo of Marcus Eoin and Michael Sandison, following lazily in the footsteps of 1998's marvellous "Music Has The Right To Children". Although it offers 'merely' more of what's gone before, that's more a cause for celebration than the sort of shoulder-shrugging disillusionment engendered by the likes of Oasis and their biannual release of effectively exactly the same album. Nobody else makes music like Boards Of Canada, although their sound has obvious antecedents in albums such as Aphex Twin's "Selected Ambient Works 85-92" and David Byrne And Brian Eno's "My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts". Here be a galaxy of woozy synth washes and drowsy beats, formulaic only to the extent that the duo probably derive their inspiration as much from mathematics as they do music. (The dividing line between the two is blurred further by titles like "Music Is Math" and "A Is To B As B Is To C".) And every now and then dialogue samples bubble to the top of this friendly cauldron, for example the natural history film narration in "Dandelion", or the energy conservation message of "Energy Warning". All this makes Boards Of Canada's undeniably electronic music sound warm, human and organic.
As an example, examine "Beware The Friendly Stranger": it sounds like a harmonium loop buried under static, with the noise of children playing somewhere in the distance. The fact that it takes longer to describe than listen to demonstrates Boards Of Canada's rare talent for enfolding multiple layers of imagery into their music, which is pretty much what the whole of the album does. To note that these 23 tracks (22 of music, the final, side-long "Magic Window" actually being an engraving of a naked nuclear family) are riddled throughout with found sounds like running water and birdsong risks making the whole enterprise look like some sub-Orb ambient pudding, but with Boards Of Canada's consistently light touch there's never the slightest danger of that happening. "Geogaddi" is a constant river of beauty, mystery, melancholy and melody, and only lack of familiarity places it behind the four-year-old "Music Has The Right To Children". Incidentally, it may be instructive or distracting to note the duo's apparent obsession with the number 6: pressed as a triple album, "Geogaddi" covers six sides, and on CD runs for 66 minutes and 6 seconds; the sleeve illustrations are littered with hexagons, and Boards Of Canada's own studio has been christened Hexagon Sun, presumably after the track "Turquoise Hexagon Sun" on their debut album.
BOARDS OF CANADA Music Has The Right To Children (Music 70/Warp/Skam)
Although preceded in the discography of this reclusive Scottish duo by all manner of cassette-only and limited releases, 1998s Music Has The Right To Children is arguably Boards Of Canadas bona fide debut album. Their pastoral, gauzy electronica sounds like a fluffier, hazier evolution of Aphex Twins Selected Ambient Works 85-92, although its possible to locate traces of other avowed influences such as the Incredible String Band and My Bloody Valentine in their aquatic sound.
Pastoral and organic, Music Has The Right To Children avoids the specific note, for example, the way that all identifying facial features have been scrubbed off the people in the artwork - to the extent that even putting track titles to its compositions seems to impose an unnecessary weight of expectation upon them. The detail is in the naturally decayed, gently corroded feel these soundscapes evoke, the elaborate clusters of beats, the fluttering, whirling samples and found sounds from which these songs are constructed. Hypnotic and beguiling, for me the album peaks on the slow funk of Aquarius, its free-floating dialogue samples curling around synthesised cloudbanks.
By the standards of the album the bonus track appended to this reissue is something of a clunker; somewhat robotic and monotonous, Happy Cycling is the only selection here that threatens to outstay its welcome. But even this is fascinating for its percussive textures, flock of seagulls and far-off Ligeti-esque keening.
If you have any fondness for electronic music, even if only the odd Tangerine Dream or Jean Michel Jarre album, Music Has The Right To Children is a friendly leap into a comfy future. Id hate to tar any work I love this much with the tacky, meaningless designation chill-out album, but this is most definitely a very relaxing release.