Sunday, June 28, 2009

Albums I enjoy #43: Geogaddi by Boards of Canada

43. Geogaddi by Boards of Canada

I have tried to write this writeup twice now. The first time, I started re-listening to the album, and ended up just sitting there dazed for the duration of the record, unable to get myself motivated to write anything. The second time, I started a crazed search across long-neglected and mostly broken areas of the internet for recordings of number stations (I finally found them, on The download is taking forever). Such is the power of Boards of Canada, to transport the mind into a completely elated state where music is the only focus, and to drive the most irrational parts of the mind to go frantic over the tiniest of ideas, often simultaneously. It's thought provoking music, but quite often your thoughts will be pure static.

But sometimes it's more than that. Sometimes the eerie melodies and hypnotic drums will resonate a little too wildly in your brain. Then the paranoia might set in. The enigma of the music might become overwhelming. And you might find yourself frantically looking up every little song, every tiny snippet of a lyric, following up every lead and analyzing every obscure sample. Worse, you might find yourself on one of the many Boards of Canada wikis, editing in your own half-baked theories. At least, that's where I find myself occasionally. It really isn't too bad a spot to be in.

Like the Reaching Quiet album I talked about previously, Geogaddi is a treasure trove of tiny little allusions and samples to be discovered. Unlike Reaching Quiet, however, Boards of Canada seems to actually have given thought to these hidden surprises beyond their basic musical quality. Having donned their tinfoil hats and thoroughly researched (although probably not bought) every cool conspiracy theory out there, they begin to pepper their works with references to Satanism, cults, New World Orders and secret spy messages - but in a subtle way that demands you do your homework before you get it.

Not that every reference is subtle. The entirety of the album runs for sixty-six minutes and six seconds. Occasionally a line will come through free of distortion, with almost shocking clarity, revealing for an instant the true intentions of the music - or perhaps a red herring. Chants to "horned Gods" are looped backwards. "The Devil in the Details" is rumoured to be an audio recording of an actual brainwashing done at a cult. Are Boards of
Canada Satanists? Cult members? Illuminati? Aliens? What comes through most clear is that they want us to guess, and they want whatever answers they think we find to terrify us.

Notes for this album, seen in aforementioned wikis and other articles, read like notes made by supervisors in a crazy house. "Panned slightly to the right, a thin, whispery sound existing in the high treble frequencies seems to be saying 'that's the one' (repeatedly from
4:44 until 5:43)". "'If you go down to the woods today, you'd better not go alone!' (reversed; from the song Teddy Bear's Picnic) ". "The vocoder that enters at 1:15 is believed to be saying 'We all fall down'". Even the syntax of these notes deepens the mystery and allure of the album. What could it mean? It's almost terrifying to look into sometimes. The amount going on behind the scenes on every track - what more could we be missing?

But enough about the message. If it was released as a madman's scrawled journal, Geogaddi would be horrifyingly engrossing. Released as a Boards of Canada album, it's wonderful, beautiful, and, until you really try to listen, happy and joyous. Children shriek with delight. Nostalgically anachronistic synths stutter and scratch across colourful, faded-out sound-scapes of soft drums, flutes and pianos. Sure, it gets intense sometimes, like the descent into hell that is "Gyroscope", or the impossible to ignore creepiness of "A is to B as B is to C" (the title is a reference to the golden ratio, neat!), but for the most part, this is an entirely pleasant sounding album. Almost deceptively or ironically so.

So, even having stripped away the allure and mystique of the rumours, mysteries and theories surrounding this album, it still holds up as an masterpiece of ambiance and noise. The drones, the chords, the tones... they're all indescribably beautiful. Maybe I'm being hypnotized into a lifestyle of cult worship, extreme paranoia, Egyptian statue resurrection and Satanistic rituals, but listening to it - I'm ready, let's go.

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