I'm a big fan of the Scottish duo Boards of Canada, but I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not easy to sit through one of their full-length records. Although they’ve nailed the art of digital landscape via sound, I just can’t imagine 99.99% of the human race fixing their attention on something so abstract for more than 20 minutes a pop.
Hence, IN A BEAUTIFUL PLACE is the Boards of Canada record that I go to when I need a fix. Concise and direct, like a solid Extended Player should be, it’s an imaginative burst of nostalgia, strange fire, and numinosity. “Kid for Today” opens in downbeat fashion, evoking the cold steam and stark desolation of a snow-driven winter morning, while the overcast weirdness and terror of “Amo Bishop Roden” hints at the dramatic arrival of something otherworldly. The album’s centerpiece, “In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country”, is one of the band’s few lyrical works, slowly swelling to a symphonic climax around the jarring refrain “Come out and live in a religious community in a beautiful place out in the country.” “Zoetrope” ends things in exceedingly minimalist fashion, an 8-bit, serene succession of simple color.
BEAUTIFUL PLACE represents the best of Boards of Canada in bite size. Devoid of filler, its four tracks should all find their way onto the band’s greatest hits. It’s the kind of record useful for unwinding the imagination, a collection of silent sonic films custom made for mankind’s left brain.