Boards of Canada, for me, have always been about landscapes.
I bought the Scottish duo's 1998 album Music Has the Right to Children
a year ago, and it simultaneously colored my world and acquired a certain significance from my own environment. The landscapes to which Boards of Canada Marcus Eoin and Michael Sandison brought meaning were varied, but, in a way, all the same. I'm reminded of a 12-hour overnight bus trip to New York; of walking through the half-melted snow at night, ears kept warm by my headphones, body kept warm by the music; of gloriously losing myself in the Lower East Side on a bright sunny day in spring, a blinding blue sky and cool breeze enhancing the album's energy. All these words color, travel, alone, bright, energy offer glimpses of the deep bond I felt, and still feel, to that first BOC album.
arrived in February 2002. Beyond the hype and buzz surrounding its release, I had my own complicated yet simple expectations. These expectations that's what kills you. While Geogaddi
was long awaited, Music Has the Right...
was a complete and utter surprise. My experience with it was neither contrived nor constructed. It was simply an album I'd heard about in passing, and I approached it with no clear idea of the sounds contained within. When I finally got my hands on Geogaddi,
I almost didn't know how to approach it. This is probably a common experience among those of us who feel so connected to music that we wait in anticipation of newness. It's a hunger; we need our fix. From this follows the fundamental question: is Geogaddi
a quick fix? Is it more? Can
it be more?
In my foolish excitement to hear the album, I decided I'd try to replicate my Music Has the Right...
experiences. It was a gorgeously warm day for February, though the sun wasn't out. It was also my birthday. An excited buzz filled my head and the air around me as I picked up the CD and my trusty headphones and began to walk, exploring new neighborhoods, seeking those familiar feelings that had tugged at me one year before.
The experience was not disagreeable; Geogaddi
proved to be a fitting soundtrack to my journey. But it felt somewhat empty, in the way that hugging an ex-loved one feels empty: the love was once there, its echoes remain, but there's just no going back. I was slightly fazed, but I did return to the album the next day, this time driving at night. I listened while walking home from a long and exhilarating evening, alone, at 2 a.m., in the cold rain. It lulled me to sleep at night, my speakers whispering its subtly repeated arrangements, the bass gently pulsating. As I slowly began to deconstruct Geogaddi,
it began to do the same to me. Letting go of expectations was necessary, and vaguely painful.
Which leads me to that essential question: quick fix? Yes and no. A first-time Boards of Canada listener will no doubt be mesmerized by the sounds that resonate so marvelously. They too will begin to form their relationship with the album; the sounds will take on shades of meaning, as will the environment in which it is experienced. The chopped-up vocals and patterns of speech that flow in and out of the undulating, often compelling beats will similarly drift through the listener's consciousness, inciting memories, stirring emotions. First-time listeners will not be indifferent to Geogaddi.
The seasoned BOC listener, however, will have to let go. This music is all about context and connotation; hence the meanings ascribed to the music cannot be forced or simulated. Step back and turn your mind off. Geogaddi
will get to you, in all its dissonance and glory. Just relax.
[Check out Neumu's other review of Geogaddi.