Box Of Secrets by Ian Boddy Limited to 1,000 copies. Sold Out.
Swirling arabesques of analogue synth, fractured rhythms and dense clouds
of texture and grain make this, the 11th solo release by ace synthesist
and sampler maestro, Ian Boddy, his most important to date.
1) Frozen Web (10.24)
2) Box of Secrets (7.22)
3) Shadows in the Sand (9.13)
4) There's Something in Your Attic (2.28)
5) Walking the Slow Path (13.20)
6) Nobody's Home (7.05)
7) Hive Culture (9.05)
The new CD on a new label as part of a brand new project - the only thing
you are left asking yourself at the end of this album is 'if only there
was more where this came from as this is a sensational new album. Track
one begins with twittering synths to which are added edgy synth/percussive
rhythms and the whole thing slowly builds, managing to be melodic without
any tunes and modern without any dance connotations. The overall effect
is very atmospheric, with a haunting feel running through it and, for
those who can't get by a review without some frame of reference, a bit
like Namlook/Schulze in a parallel universe with no '70's references and
no dance elements. Track 2 starts way slower - in fact you're 4 minutes
in before the rhythm starts to break through, and that's slow as well.
All this time a beautiful soaring synth backdrop is floating silently
at the back, while again a variety of synth layers are added, again being
melodic with the merest semblance of a tune, while lush synth choirs are
added to the ever more engaging musical landscape and the whole thing
is both solid yet crystalline, modern and old at the same time. Track
3 starts with nearly 3 minutes of beautiful space music before a sprightly,
lurching rhythm enters that quickly mutates into a decelerated mix of
Can and Kraftwerk with a bit of drum 'n' bass on the side, while the lead
synths weave various lines to the skies. Then it all drops back to haunting
but in a slightly different setting, before picking up the slowly lurching
rhythmic foundation and heading off to parts unknown in the company of
distant synth choirs, rising synth leads that are exotic and fragile over
the crispest of Eastern-influenced synth/perc rhythms. The piece builds
and layers to great effect, fading toward the end at 9 minutes with just
the rhythms gradually heading into infinity. Track 4 features a few minutes
of abstract space music with a difference that serves as a neat intro
to track 5 which has a 4 min cosmic intro itself then moves into a soundpool
of cascading percussive and synth layers, a gently galloping rhythm base
and clipped layers of flowing, lightly echoed synth lines, again adding
more electronic layers slowly and deliberately as the piece continues,
melodic, light and purposeful but with a strength and originality that
separates it from any other synth music around. As a 13 minute track,
it is one of his finest pieces. Track 6 hisses and whispers its way in
with a wicked bass undercurrent amid the slowly flowing space synth layers.
This emerges into a melange of synths and samples that are like a barely
heard distant conversation, alot like the stark yet haunting musical landscapes
in the final section of the '2001' film, and a real gem for space music
fans. Finally, track 7 ends the CD with a heavy sequencer rhythm that
bounces and drives but turns into a more galloping rhythm with sets of
synth layers and electronic fx bubbling up all around the central rhythmic
framework that keeps on changing shape as the piece continues, to the
added enjoyment of the composition. Eventually it turns into a supreme
slice of melodic/rhythmic grandeur and rises, phoenix-like, to a powerful
multi-synth climax. Overal, not a bad second on the album and one of his
best ever releases, this is essential listening for all synth music fans
and is a classic example of real ambient music for the end of the millennium.
A Listeners Guide To Box of Secrets
Over 11 solo albums, Ian Boddy has sought to raise the standards and levels
of his playing, composition and production. Rather than be a prisoner
of his own success and the potential prisoner of fan expectation, Boddy
has once again opted to accept the challenge of producing investigative
electronic music that traverses the many styles contained within that
That may not be too contentious especially if one looks at the differing
worlds of previous Boddy efforts such as Continuum and Octane (co-produced
with Mark Shreeve and released under the name of Arc). What gives Box
Of Secrets it's slightly controversial edge is the way Boddy has met the
challenge posed by the impinging world of emergent dance culture.
There might be some more traditional schools of thought which regard such
a cross-over as heresy. There are other strands of thought which take
a more pragmatic view of things and argue that any musical style or genre
are open to interpretation. Lets be clear, Box Of Secrets is not by any
stretch of the imagination a dance album. However, there are tracks which
would not be out of place on the floors and chill out rooms of some of
the more progressive establishments in the dance world.
Boddy is no stranger to the world of dance beats and the albums opening
track, Frozen Web, contains almost 6.00 minutes of sibilant flirtation
with club rhythms over a pulsing, swirling back drop of sequencers and
atmospherics. With a hip hop, skip and jump, this emerges into a thumping
groove which climaxes with a straight ahead soaring solo.
The title track Box Of Secrets opens with an ambiguous, ominous hum. It
could be distant machinery or the sound of something alive standing closer
than you'd like. In the end, the sound morphs into a muffled heartbeat,
shrouded in the sound of delicate wind chimes. A moderately paced shuffle
sets the scene for an almost elegiac piano solo. Distant heavenly choirs
enter at around the five minute point which only adds to the solemnity
of the proceedings. For established listeners, this track will bring a
warm glow of familiarity. For newcomers, you'll find out in a nutshell
what all the fuss has been about.
Shadows In The Sand opens with what sounds like bowed metal echoing in
some cavernous Eastern market place. There is a depth and colour to this
section which makes for very satisfying listening. It is evident that
Boddy has put a lot of care and attention into creating these little vignettes.
It would be a mistake to regard such sections as fillers or spacey froth.
They are part and parcel of the overall track and are just as important
to the tracks as any of the rhythm sections or solos. Over a medium paced
and somewhat funky and heavily filtered drum track, the piece evolves
into an expert piece of ethno-forgery, as Boddy reconstructs his version
of what a zither and a Duduk might sound like. Listen out in particular
for the superb soloing on this track. As a veteran Boddy-watcher I rate
this as amongst the best that he's committed to disc to date. Theres a
looser, languid feel to the playing which somehow makes it freer.
There's even a certain humour and piquancy to the solo as it weaves and
dives around the speeding beats. Whilst the choir and sequencers will
provide a reference point for the traditional listener, there's much on
this track that is new and thus will stand repeated listening.
Theres Something In Your Attic is a tone poem of impressive structure
and brevity. In just under three minutes, Boddy offers up a description
of a terrifying interior in which paranoia and self doubt are the principal
landmarks. The assembled sounds and collages are not laboured or overdrawn.
It's a testimony to Boddys judgement that he avoids any unnecessary melodrama
in describing those dark terrors that can lurk upstairs.
Thankfully, the gloom laden rumination is mercifully short and gives way
to Walking The Slow Path. With what might be a wry nod of acknowledgement
to his Tuetonic influences, the piece opens with the luxuriant patina
of grainy synth. You can almost feel the texture as these glorious sounds
ooze from the speakers. The instrumental palette is further extended and
enhanced with a sublime, descending phrase from flutes. Theres a slow,
mutant funk which permeates this track which makes it irresistible. With
the playful addition of a scratched record fx, layers and textures are
built and added over the course of 13 minutes which makes this the longest
track on the album. The orchestration is almost terse and certainly devoid
of any superfluous flourishes which could have easily marred what may
well turn out to be one of the most well regarded tracks in his recording
career. On Walking The Slow Path, Boddy effortlessly encompasses most
of whats happening in electronic music today. Be it industrial, dark ambient,
chill out or cosmiche, you'll find it all in the Boddy blend, brewed to
Nobodys Home suggests the sound of a deserted steel yard, the shards of
sparking metal burning into the night. If the previous track is the highlight
in traditional compositional terms, then this piece must be in line for
an award in pure sound design. Instead of working with string synths,
chords and choirs, Boddy is conjuring music out of anything from fax tones,
engaged announcements as well as the more obvious sound sources. It's
a different compositional style that's being developed here and easily
one of his most courageous and exploratory tracks to date. Once again,
it would be a mistake to regard this as some kind of filler because it
lacks a discernible beat or rhythm. This is wonderful melange of carefully
chosen tints and textures, grafted together to make a stunning and original
soundscape. Don't expect pretty sine waves and the like. There's a rich
darkness to this piece which is compelling.
The album's closing track Hive Culture reminds one of a speeded up film
of city life. Everything rushing to get from one place to another, screeching
brakes, low flying planes and the rush of air as trains clatter toward
commuter laden platforms. A fast, insistent beat drives the track relentlessly
onwards. Overall, Hive Culture is a tour de force which demonstrates why
Boddy's work is well respected by musicians as well as ordinary fans.
His grasp of tightly scripted solos and striking arrangements make for
dramatic listening full of thrills and spills.
On Box Of Secrets, Boddy has an economy in his musical language in which
the unnecessary has been paired back or discarded. For me, there's a greater
maturity in both the playing and compositions which have enabled Ian to
make bold choices and not only what is possible but what is desirable.
Boddy's well defined love of melody is still very much in evidence on
this, the first release on DiN, which is bound to please the long term
supporters of Ian's music. However, there is much that is new and challenging
which will ask the listener to suspend their usual definitions of what
constitutes electronic music.
Without doubt, the album does mark a departure for Ian in that there's
an emerging concern around the deployment of pure sound and texture as
composition as opposed to gimmick or effect. As in other recent work (such
as Distant Rituals with Markus Reuter - DiN 2 ) there's a refinement to
his compositional process and choices which make Ian Boddy the one to
watch. Mark my words, this is a landmark album with musical quality as
the principle concern. Get in on the ground floor and impress your pals.