Wednesday 23 February 2022

20 Summers Back

I'm having a bit of a Warp renaissance as of late - this past weekend the usually dormant Boards Of Canada twitter account came out of the woodwork to retweet some articles celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release of Geogaddi. In times past, I'd have been among them at the time (or at least tried to be) but even having missed the actual date, I think the album itself is more than worth a revisit.

Geogaddi is a very dense album, and not just because it's got the biggest tracklist of all their mainline albums. It's dense because it is steeped in atmosphere - here the Boards really lean into their aesthetic - resulting in an album that is brimming with psychedelia, tinged with 60's nostalgia, and thanks to some subtle (and some not so subtle) nods to the occult, a slightly menacing undertone - the subtlest being the inclusion of one final track of silence on the album that is purely there to raise the album's runtime to 66 minutes and 6 seconds.

As a result it's perhaps not the best starting point if you're new to the Boards, I'd recommend the previous album Music Has The Right To Children for that, but even so it's home to some of their finest works as well. Following the standard Boards Of Canada modus operandi - after a brief intro to set the stage in Ready Lets Go, we immediately dive into Music Is Math. Which is a tune that is going to make me instantly walk back the statement I just made about it not being a good intro to a first time listener - an almost distillation of the quintessential BoC sound, if you like this, you can pretty much go ahead and grab the rest of their discography for more.

But it's not long before the slightly sinister elements make an appearance as it's followed by Beware The Friendly Stranger, which you may recognise from David Firth's Salad Fingers series - it's a melodic interlude, but with a menacing crackle and fizz lurking just below the surface, which is will be a recurring theme throughout the tracklist. We're going to jump quite a bit forward to highlight another standout in 1969, which continues the trend of comforting yet unsettling. The beats are surprisingly heavy on all of Geogaddi which is demonstrated very well here. Crown it with some of the most explicitly deliberate cult imagery on the album (the sample here is "Although not a follower of David Koresh, she's a devoted Branch Davidian", just with Koresh's name reversed) and you have the complete Geogaddi recipe. It's hypnotic but doesn't outstay it's welcome at a (nice) 4:20, the final quarter when the track title's namesake comes into play it is magical - I can never get enough of that robotic '1969, in the sunshine'.

I am skipping over a majority here which does feel like a bit of a disservice, Geogaddi is a record that deserves to be experienced in its entirety at least once - but I am also playing favourites here. Speaking of favourites, some of my top Boards Of Canada tunes all follow a similar formula - the short melodic ambient interludes that punctuate the albums. Over The Horizon Radar is one of them, lovely but fleeting. I usually find myself saying 'just one more time' when they do come up as a a result, this one along with Olson from Music Has The Right To Children are probably my two most played of them all as a result. Over The Horizon Radar ushers in the final quarter of the album, and marks the end of the darker sound as well - the final few tracks are all beautiful in their own ways.

Over The Horizon Radar is followed by Dawn Chorus, which is also one of my favourites (and one I've not done a very good job of describing having searched the archives). You'd be forgiven for not really getting the darker side of the album given my selections, none of them other than 1969 really show it - and Dawn Chorus continues that trend - what can I say, I'm picking favourites after all! It's a sparkling, sun dressed celebration of its title. The end result is nothing short of euphoric, when this one hits on certain days it is like nothing else. It is just wonderful, an absolute treat to listen too, and one that is all the sweeter when its been a long time since hearing it last as is the case with me.

It doesn't seem that long since the 20th anniversary of the album before, Music Has The Right To Children, but then again I suppose everyone's perception of time is a little warped these days (no pun intended). That and Geogaddi will be forever linked in my head as I picked them both up around the same time when I went on my huge Warp Records deep dive however long ago. Two landmark albums that I think any fan of electronic music could do with hearing once - the Boards boys absolutely nailed their aesthetic by this point on both the visual and audio front and would go on to influence many others in the electronic music sphere.

This little excursion has been fun, I'll be sure to rifle through my collection and see if I can't spot any more upcoming album anniversaries that I could cover. I hope you've all enjoyed it too, (my coverage has matured a little bit since the first time I've covered these albums as a teen!) and if this is your first time really listening to the BoC, then welcome - and I'm sure you'll enjoy your time with them. Until next time - as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


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