Thereís no question that the UK-based Warp label has cornered the market on the obtuse, challenging, instrumental electronica thatís earned the unfortunate label "intelligent dance music" or "IDM" ó the style or subgenre pioneered by Warp mainstays like Autechre, Squarepusher, and Aphex Twin. But very little of Warpís output has been engaging or fun to listen to. Boards of Canadaís critically acclaimed 1998 debut, Music Has the Right to Children, was a perfect example: though its carefully constructed sonic sculptures of ticky-tack percussion, mathematically precise rhythms, and spare synths and samples were impressive, it didnít make much effort to draw in the casual listener. Yet the elusive duo returned in 2000 with the In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country EP, an astounding mix of hazy, psychedelic downtempo beats that helped make Geogaddi one of the more anticipated releases of 2002 in the realm of electronica.
Hype notwithstanding, Boardsí sophomore full-length delivers on that promise: itís a rare achievement that brings a human touch to bear on the mechanical symmetry of IDM. The disc has a sentimental undertone, and itís characterized by a wide-eyed sense of discovery and playfulness. The push-and-pull pacing and tiny crests of "Julie and Candy" suit the childhood allusion of its title; the drifting rhythmic roils and blasts of feedback that underpin the wobbly "Dawn Chorus" keep the track from falling into a mechanized rut. At a time when the gulf between hedonistic fun and stern-faced intellectualism has split electronic music into warring factions, Boards of Canada have come through with an album to remind us that the circuits and wires of IDM can express feelings and emotions, too.