At the time Music Has The Right To Children came out, I wasn’t that impressed by the sounds I was hearing. I’d heard the hype, I’d read the reviews, and perhaps my expectations levels were cranked just a little too high. I still got the album, though, and a few weeks later, the penny dropped as I counted up the number of times I had played the record since I’d bought it; a whole lot, in fact, and more than if I’d merely liked it from the start. So Boards Of Canada had snuck up on me by stealth but then, just as I was hooked, the supply dried up. There was no fresh material, merely rumours of cassette-only releases confined to the north of Scotland. But this silence meant there was suddenly a gap in the market – there were loads of electronic-heads desperate for a fix of BOC and record shops took full advantage with ‘Recommended if you like Boards of Canada’ stickers plastered everywhere.
Such was the output of other musicians and labels that the need was sated, at least until Geogaddi came out, and having bought a ton of the stuff I was able to cherry pick the finest post-BOC releases and corral my collection into a mixtape entitled Bored of Canada? which assembled what I considered the best-of-the-rest. Had Imploded View been around then, they would have definitely made the disc, which is to say that if you have a space in your life for analogue synths and slow hip-hop beats and have frankly given up when the Sandison brothers will next emerge, then Picnics With Pylons is for you.
Jerome McCormick has done an excellent job in creating an LP of atmospheric sounds and well-crafted rhythms, and from the opening “Astral Airways”, it is easy to sucked into his world, where flutey melodies drift on updrafts, and the percussion is tastefully restrained, complementing the analogue chords rather than dominating. There’s good use of vocal samples too, particularly on “Boring Robot” which brings a smile to the face and hasn’t got boring yet. And the likes of “Snowflake Bentley” and “We Ivy” have lovely little tunes that should see Imploded View appearing on all kinds of mixes and compilation albums designed for home listening.
It’s not all great, however and oddly Picnics With Pylons seems front-loaded with the disappointing stuff; “Can Drift Would Drift” and “That’s Thrift” both feature some irritating keyboard sounds (a growl here, a kitten orchestra there) playing melody and counter-melody and in the end they just distract. Sandwiched between is the speedy bassline of “Across The Snow”, which seems to play at double the tempo actually required; the result being that it’s trying to make you speed up and slow down at the same time which makes it rather fractious.
It’s possible to cope with these slight annoyances because the rest of the record successfully erases any bad feelings, as McCormick improves his sample selection, and it’s smooth sailing from there on. But it underlines how narrow the distance between success and failure is when making electronic music – one sound that doesn’t quite work and you are struggling to make up lost ground. Fortunately Imploded View maintain a high hit-to-miss ratio on Picnics With Pylons and after a couple of plays, it’s easy to forget about the influences – boards of what, now? (Jeremy Bye)