After Music Has the Right to Children, this is the second best Boards of Canada release, because despite the duo loving to use as much space as the CD format allows (every Boards of Canada album runs for more than an hour), they would never be able to fill up a CD’s worth ever again after their debut album.
Boards of Canada’s mandate has always been about the evocative –Music Has the Right to Children about the fondest memories of childhood; certain moments of Geodaddi about the repressed ones – In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country does that while being effortless. The first two tracks are both exercises for sky-gazing if it’s warm and cloudy enough for it, and ceiling-gazing if it’s not. Keyboard colors weave around the drums on “Kid for Today” while any ambient artist could learn a lesson in just how active “Amo Bishop Roden” is; the synth notes floats above you while the clicks (the most interesting drumming on the set) and bass thuds (the heaviest on the set) push them out of sight and new ones into view. The title track is easily the best song here, at times transporting me as a child onto a field on a sunny afternoon and wondering if it would be possible to create a fort out of bales of hay because the words “Come out” and “In a beautiful place out in the country” from the vocodered vocals are the most audible and so inviting. But if you pay attention enough, you hear the voice saying “Live with a religious community” and there’s suddenly something creepy about the whole situation, especially with the recorded sounds of laughing children, unaware of what’s happening in their naivety. Pitchfork’s Paul Cooper describes “Zoetrope” as “a pastiche of minimalist melodies” (I agree with this bit; it sounds like Philip Glass playing a major-keyed song on a synth) with “Eno/Lanois ambience” (I disagree with this bit). Actually, while it’s definitely not bad, “Zoetrope” doesn’t belong, because despite the fact that it’s beatless or bassless, it’s so insistent in its jovial finality.
With rumors circulating that Aphex Twin was planning retirement (though that turned out not to be true quite just yet), In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country came at the perfect time, as if the duo was saying that they were going to replace him. With this release, I was convinced.