Music Reviews

Boards Of Canada Twoism

(Warp) Buy it from Insound Rating - 7/10

As a reviewer, you kind of have to worry about preaching to the converted with Boards of Canada. The reclusive duo - they record in the Hexagon Sun Studios in the Highlands of Scotland, are seldom seen in public, and do less PA work than Elvis - have gained a cult-like following over the last fifteen years. Marcus Eion and Mike Sandison have been creating a blueprint for haunting, twitchy sonic landscapes that reflects the cold beauty of their seclusion. This re-release, originally a very, very, very limited vinyl on Music70 in 1995, has been changing hands on the net for anything up to £800, and there are still 'collectible' versions of the Music70 pressing for sale, even now Warp have decided to re-master and re-release the album. But if you haven't already been addicted by the opiate sounds of last year's Geogaddi or its cortex-fixating predecessor Music Has the Right to Children, then Twoism is a brilliant introduction to BoC's sublime wares.

Split over eight tracks, Twoism is really an electronic symphony, with each track developing movements and themes that run throughout the album. Part of the genius of the BoC is their ability - curiously similar to that of gurning beach-wrecker Norman Cook in an utterly different context - of taking a tiny sliver of music and repeating it to the point of near ridiculousness. Thus miniature drum loops, snatches of unheard conversation, ghostly synth noises and delicate hi-hats begin, combine, and recombine again. Where BoC really come into their own is in their mastery of precise time-phasing. Different loops operate at complexly syncopated intervals, so peaks of orchestral harmony are followed by subtly discordant fractures and troughs of pensive quiet.

In many ways Twoism is a less complex record than subsequent releases. There's clearly a development from here to MHTRTC, but conversely, there's a certain purity and focus here that perhaps gets lost in some of the more showy pieces on the latter work. Sixtyniner is a brilliant introduction to the set, with its off-stage vocal drifting into the melodic and ghostly Directine. Iced Cooly is a strangely twee, almost kitsch track, yet disguising a deep melodic development underneath. Basefree is the most up-tempo track here, a superb mix of breakbeats and menacing quietism, and there's much of the sound Radiohead tried so (commercially) successfully to follow on Idioteque. Seeya later makes you picture Rutger Hauer's tears in Blade Runner, while Melissa Juice combines an almost hip-hop beat with a subsonic rolling bass-line. Final track Smokes Quality seems to have provided an influence for the more proggy efforts on DJ Shadow's last outing, The Private Press.

OK, so there are gripes - it's a re-release, and two of the tracks are on MHTRTC or the High Scores EP released on Scam records, and if you're a fan you've probably already burnt these tracks or, maybe, sold your mother into slavery for an original. Still, Twoism is a fine album in its own right, a brilliant introduction to the cave-dwelling knob-twiddlers, and a fascinating companion piece to their later works.