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The Boats - Words Are Something Else


I have to admit that my knowledge of this band is somewhat sketchy, but after listening to this quirky album, there’s no doubt that I’ll be investigating more of their back catalogue. For this release on the embryonic Home Normal album, the duo of Craig Tattersall and Andy Hargreaves are joined by Chris Stewart, who offers guest vocals of several of the tracks. It’s all disembodied minimal techno  and electronica that at first brings to mind the scattered vision of Thomas Brinkmann and Jan Jelinek, with the track “Maps of Nowhere”, which builds upon a succession of layered noises to utter something quite insistent and forceful, but without resorting to the sort of stark, obvious templates that we hear in this genre so often nowadays. There’s a playful element which mutates into a feeling that these tracks grow organically rather than relying on a set of sounds. It’s not all sleek 4/4 either, as tracks such as “Keep off the Boats” and “I hope you get well soon..” seek to further colour their sonic canvas with pleasing stratas of sound and texture. I’m constantly reminded of various dance music tropes that other artists may have used before, but to their credit Tattersall and Hargreaves manage to disguise these as their own with some style. “Service before Self” keeps up the rhythm, but is coloured with wonderfullly plangent basslines and miniscule treatments to the sound that reinforce my feelings that there’s a real sense of love being applied here.

Hargreaves’ disembodied vocals, often heavily treated, don’t make the biggest impression and more often than not I felt that they were somewhat incidental. Yet they leave the best for last with the 7 minute “Raindrops”, which fades in and out of the listener’s perception with some alarming regularity, the ponderous bassline and vocal refrain “Will I Remain” displaying a marvellous talent for the sort of simple yet soporific hook that is all too rare in this sort of music. It’s gloriously detached, and begins to build a picture of a group that seem happy to compile sonic sketches that remain tantalisingly incomplete, ready for you, the listener, to use your imagination to fill in. This is impressionistic dance music, full of blind alleys that lead you down mysterious paths.

Toby Frith

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