Boards of Canada, Music Has The Right To Children

In my United States the National Film Board of Canada was that weird governmental agency that came up with strange yet inspired pieces you saw in animation festivals and avant-garde movie theatres. They'd find someone to come up with anything and everything, and then they'd run with it (see also The Big Snit, The Cat Came Back, etc.). I'm not sure if this Scottish group had the same cultural context but they certainly embraced the same industrious variety with cryptic titles, dreamy, nostalgia-suffused affection ("The Color of the Fire"), aspirational textures ("Open The Light"), gauzy vocalizations ("An Eagle In Your Mind," "Turquoise Hexagon Sun," "One Very Important Thought"), triphop beats ("Telephonic Workshop," "Sixtyten," "Happy Cycling") and even a touch of noodly funk ("Aquarius" -- "yeah, that's right!"). All of these features probably best come together in the strident synthesizer, cheery child vocals and the confident, almost sauntering backbeat of "Roygbiv," but it's painfully short, and one of the many tracks on this album (like the ominous "Smokes Quantity") that leaves you wanting to stay in the moment just a little bit longer. Conversely, there are just as many tracks that, like all ambient music, needs you to imagine more of a "there" there than there is (such as "Rue The Whirl" with its accidentally recorded chirping birds, the reductive minimalism of "Olson" or the scratchy vocal sample and meandering melody of "Pete Standing Alone"). Don't get me wrong: there's nothing intrinsically wrong with this competent album — in fact, much like the Film Board was, it's sometimes absolutely brilliant — but overly studious musical diversity is often indistinguishable from formlessness and so is this. This album's best moments will only reward the devotedly attentive listener, and while I thought it was well worth it, not everyone is going to want to make that investment. (Content: no concerns.)