Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Boards of Canada - 'Music Has the Right to Children' (Matador/Warp/Skam)

I could go on and on about this CD but everyone else already has, so I'll give you my personal take. It's always something special when there is some newly mined "genre" that is popular and along comes somebody who just totally melts everything else around it. This record did that, and I can compared it maybe to what This Heat did to the post-punk field with Deceit or maybe even Dylan in some way. In this case, the genre was the whole 'IDM' thing, which never clicked with me (despite all of the clicks in it). But Music Has the Right to Children sure resonated with me back in '98 or whenever this came out. Perhaps that's because it came, for me, at a time when I was looking to expand my horizons a bit, and I was no longer afraid of the world of electronica. It sure helps that it sounds like all of the music I listened to anyway back then, except recorded better and with electronic beats. I still find some of the more overtly dancey beats, particularly the ones at the beginning of the album like on 'Telephasic Workshop', a bit harder to digest. What I really love is what I call that 'classic' Boards of Canada sound - the way a steady, midtempo rhythm will just come in like the sun rising over a mountaintop ('Aquarius', perhaps). But their perfectionism is totally welcome - it touched on the guitar-futurism I admired about My Bloody Valentine, embraced the same warm aesthetics that I found to be missing from just about everything else in their genre, and most importantly (in retrospect) a real style of mythmaking that magnifies the artistry of the music. I mean, let's look at the cover - a beautifully monochromatic image, simultaneously warm and cool, and weathered just as the music is. Faces blurred out; creepy yes, but moreso I'd say 'enigmatic'. And there's so many little details in the way the songs will change direction - one channel will get more distant, an electric piano note will be able to ring out longer - it's obsessive sound creation for sure. There's actually quite a lot of melodic noodling here ('Turquoise Hexagon Sun') though maybe 'noodling' is the wrong word for these guys. When voices are sampled, which they are quite a lot here, it's so tasteful you barely even notice. Geogaddi didn't do it for me but I used to work with a dude who swore by it, and to be fair there was no way it could have slayed me as much as this record did. It simultaneously opened up a door to a whole soundworld, and then closed said door by being so satisfying I had little interest in the other giants of their peer group. Though I loved Campfire Headphase more than most, so I can see myself falling in love with Geogaddi one belated day. I think Boards of Canada are best experienced on vinyl, and probably with headphones; therefore it's somewhat paradoxical that I'm listening to them on CD through bookshelf speakers. I can draw a straight line between Terry Riley, AR Kane, most of the early Kranky records roster, and this. But that's confining; they wiggle around and draw many retro-cultural images that I didn't even fully understand until I lived in Scotland myself.

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