Boards of Canada: Geogaddi

Boards of Canada

News alert: Cornell University scientists are developing an artificial human womb. The prospect of a plastic "people incubator" may immediately conjure images of Brave New World fetus factories mass-producing a docile proletariat for corporate slavery--but that's not really too far from Dubya's formula for prosperity today. Still, one may worry: What will be different about children who develop inside a plastic mommy? Will they, for instance, still have good taste in music?

They will if Boards of Canada have their way: The Scottish electro duo's Geogaddi comes four years after what I see as their groundbreaking manifesto on plastic surrogate motherhood, Music Has the Right to Children. The latest album refines, rather than redefines, the sonic template explored on the former record. Geogaddi, like Music, is slow and warbly, distant, and a little muffled. It is by turns comforting and uneasy. In other words, it's exactly what I imagine my mother's womb was like. About half the songs, like the opener "Ready Let's Go," are brief pieces composed of one or two gradually evolving chords and a bit of sad melody: They're sound haikus that seem minor at first but gain resonance with further listening.

The rest of the tracks are longer, generally building around a wobbly synth line and a crackling, slow-as-the-RZA-in-pudding hip-hop beat. And as on Music, many of the melodies are populated with strange disembodied voices. Eschewing the aesthetic of the corny sci-fi/B-movie snippet, Boards of Canada favor samples of children reciting colors and numbers ("A is to B as B is to C," "Music Is Math"), or snatches of nature-doc narration ("Sunshine Recorder"). It's as if listeners were being entertained by Mr. Rogers and the Discovery Channel.

Beyond its utilitarian value as a fetus instructional record, Geogaddi is one of the best albums available to those who've grown used to air. For babies who will develop in tomorrow's womb with a view, Geogaddi will be a synthetic heartbeat--like a puppy's clock under the pillow. For the rest of us already on the outside, it's the closest thing we'll ever get to being born again.

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