In 1895, Robert W. Chambers published The King in Yellow, a collection of short stories about an exquisite, surrealistic play that drove all who read it to madness and corruption. Beautiful, mesmerizing, and trascendent, the work was a mask hiding a face of the most hideous evil.
A lot of people talk aboutGeogaddi the same way.
The second full album by the Scots duo, Boards of Canada, Geogaddi was the long-awaited follow-up toMusic Has the Right to Children, a record widely considered to be one of the finest pieces of electronica ever produced. With its sunny sounds and the laughing voices of children, Music evoked an aching sense of nostalgia, a bright and shiny piece of ambient delight that had fans and critics breathless in anticipation for the sequel. It took four years to produce that sequel, and the enigmatic twosome worked in virtual isolation, finally releasing Geogaddi under the most bizarre of circumstances and with little fanfare. It was premiered, simultaneously, in six churches around the world; London, New York, Tokyo, Edinburgh, Paris, and Berlin.
And that was just the start of the creepiness.
Geogaddi is one dark piece of electronica. We aren't talking "black metal" dark; no one is screaming "Satan Rules!" or talking about sex with nuns. No, Geogaddi is a hell of a lot scarier than that. If you've ever seen Rosemary's Baby, then Geogaddi is not Marilyn Manson or Cradle of Filth, it's Roman and Minnie Castevets...the sweet elderly couple next door who drug your choclate mousse so that Satan can have his way with you.
For starters, the album runs 66 minutes, 6 seconds long, and is composed of 23 tracks, two numbers with long and ominous occult pedigrees. Nor is this coincidence. The last track, "The Magic Window," is a minute and forty seconds of pure silence included just to reach these two spooky numbers. But that is only the beginning; track after track is a haunting descent into the darker regions of the psyche. The thing is loaded, loaded, with Easter Eggs and hidden occult teases. Things start tame enough, though by the second track, "Music is Math," we begin to sense something wrong. It starts pleasantly, like a warm swim in the sunshine, until the rather sinister beats and echoing voices grab you like the undertow. Then tracks like "Beware the Friendly Stranger," "Gyroscope," "1969," and "The Devil is in the Details" have their way with you. The innocuously named "Dawn Chorus" has you tapping your feet until suddenly you begin to wonder oh my god what is HAPPENING to those children??? And then there is "You Could Feel the Sky," laden with hidden references to horned gods and shouts that might have come from The Exorcist.
It is a stunning piece of composition, sublime and terrible, and people react to it in very different ways. I find it endlessly fascinating, but I once quite literally had a young woman flee a party I was playing it at. She later told me it made her skin crawl and gave her nightmares for days.
Geogaddi is a jewel, a weird and quite possibly Satanic jewel, but a jewel nevertheless. And it was also an anomaly. Boards of Canada's third album was much like the first, a nostalgic and sunny romp through delight. Geogaddi plays like something they had to get out of their system.