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Boards of Canada, "In a Beautiful Place Out In the Country"

After a year full of unpronounceable non sequiturs masquerading as album titles, Boards of Canada bring us the most aptly named release in ages. "In a Beautiful Place out in the Country" is exactly where Mark Eoin and Mike Sandison intend to take you with this new EP, and they succeed admirably.



Boards of Canada - In a Beautiful Place Out In the Country - EP

The material here has the same elements that "Music Has the Right to Children" and "hi scores" did: big, slow, chunky hip-hop beats, staticy synth washes, bittersweet melodies, buried samples of children playing and laughing. But the gorgeous melodies and hypnotic beats that seemed to be verging on childish joy now and then in their two previous releases seem more contemplative, nostalgic, almost wistful if not actually melancholy. These gentle songs are more of a flip through a scrapbook stuffed with pictures of your favorite beautiful place out in the country when you were a kid than an actual visit. "Kid for Today," starts out with a gentle, soothing beat that's reminiscent of rain falling on a roof. Soft, wispy synths and a gorgeous melody, full of that analog goodness. A scratchy voice mumbles something at us. It's like being inside on a rainy summer day, watching puddles accumulate. "Amo Bishop Roden" is a filtered, almost vanishing synth loop with an even more wistful murmur fading in and out above it. Now and then we get a subsonic thump that propels the song forward. The ticking-clock drumline thickens into static, then vanishes into a whirlpool. The title track is definitely the stand-out here. A chilly organ line develops slowly, we hear the sounds of children laughing, and one of those chunky beats comes in to fill the background. A momentary halt, and then a heavily processed voice murmurs something melodic and incomprehensible in the voice of a sedated Speak-N-Spell. Then everything begins blending together...
Finally, there's "Zoetrope." This sounds just like one of those short interlude tracks from "Music..." that I wish went on for a year but stopped after a minute or so. I'm not even sure how to describe it. Gentle chords move up and down a keyboard in rolling waves, not a bassline or beat or synth wash in sight, but it just gets more and more wonderful. It's been much too long since their last release, and at less than 25 minutes, this is not a long EP -- but if everything they do is as achingly beautiful as this, I'm willing to wait for another two years.