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Boards of Canada
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In a genre where anonymity and artificiality are coin of the realm, Boards of Canada’s self-described “really psychedelic, organic-sounding music” communicates something that most electronica acts can’t. Unlike obscuro-futurist Warpmates Aphex Twin and Autechre, which purposefully hide their intent behind complicated instrumentals and oblique titling systems (“Kladfvgbung Micshk” and “Zeiss Contarex” spring to mind), Boards issue bright melodies, uncomplex beats, and tongue-in-cheek vocal snippets that actually let you know where the hell they’re coming from. And where they’re coming from on the new Geogaddi is definitely more hippie than hipster. “1969” layers swirling, druggy loops and a flower-child computer voice singing, “1969 in the sunshine.” “Energy Warning” follows hot on its heels with an airy synth riff and a bleeding-heart plea voiced by a youngun: “If we don’t start working on energy conservation there may not be enough energy to go around by the time I’m a parent.” And “Dandelion” alternates between an ascending musical motif and a lesson in land formation: “When lava pours out near the sea surface,” a documentarian intones, “tremendous volcanic explosions sometimes occur.” But there’s nothing all that turbulent or landscape-altering happening on this down-tempo disc; when Boards aren’t oozing acid-happy mantras (such as the “beautiful place” chant on “Sunshine Recorder”) or dropping Pink Floydian vignettes (such as the trippy vox ‘n’ synth collage that is “A Is to B as B Is to C”), Geogaddi sounds like Brian Eno concocting ethereal hiphop with DJ Premier. Their debut, 1998’s Music Has the Right to Children, was similarly structured, but this time around the music feels even simpler and more direct, with the fashionably triphoppy percussion replaced by more rudimentary rhythm-making. “Music Is Math” employs a squishy, old-school drum-machine track and a vocoderized melody. “Gyroscope” sports an elegant skipping-record beat tumbling over a child’s counting exercises. And “Alpha and Omega” imagines a bongo-driven electro groove splintering into poppy analog arpeggios. If this austere shift doesn’t make for a completely timeless sound, at least it’s truer to Boards’ mission statement. —Brent Burton