From the opening overdriven blast of noise, you know that this isn’t going to be a standard Boats album…the harsh, distorted tone that starts ‘Cliodynamics’ morphs into a rhythmic, undulating pulse and,underpinned by the sound of clattering drum machines, becomes a mesmerizing and headnodding abstract techno beast…whatsmore, this assault on the senses doesn’t let up over the course of the entire album. If you’re thinking ” Erm….where did the homely, almost twee, electronica go?” you’d be right on the money, because it’s nowhere to be found here. ‘Nomenclature’ finds The Boats all but completely ditching the stylings of their entire back catalogue in favour of a delectably degraded take on early 90’s techno experimentation. Fans of the early Warp catalogue and bubbly Drexciyan bleeps will feel more at home here than gentle ambient types and the signal to noise ratio is skewed heavily towards the noise end of the scale.
OK. So now your curiosity is piqued and your expectations suitably quashed. No, this is not the Boats that you know and love… but is it a version of the Boats that you should give a chance? The answer is, indubitably, yes.
Once you get over the initial shock to the system that is ‘Nomenclature’, you are going to find lots here to feed your ears and head. Craig Tattersall and Andrew Hargreaves have never put a foot wrong in their long and storied history of music making, and, although this a considerable stylistic departure from their previous works, this album continues their undeniable relentless winning streak. The pair explore the outer reaches of techno abstraction; subby bass tweakage, dusty acid belches, and overdriven echo chambers are the palette with which they paint and some kind of migraine-invoking auditory hallucination is the satisfying end result.
The production skills and ‘less is more’ approach that have been honed over the previous Boats releases are put to excellent use in this new territory…you’d think these guys had been producing nothing but dark, dystopian techno for years, such is the quality of the sound produced. The same fastidious level of attention to detail that has characterized previous releases is evident throughout ‘Nomenclature’ but this time focused on a wave of nostalgia for illegal warehouse raves and altered states of consciousness.
I imagine that a a large portion of the Fluid readership have come from a similar musical background to myself, slowly falling in love with electronic music and ambient sounds through a long history of skirting around the more instantly listenable end of the scale – your melodic jungle, breaks etc. – through the pinnacle of the Warp years, – Aphex, Autechre, Boards of Canada- and gradually, but inescapably embracing the less immediate, but more satisfying, longer form or more abstract sounds of the current generation of experimental music being put out there by the Home Normals, Hibernates, and Cotton Goods of this world….maybe not, but I’d wager that this describes a good number of you. Anyway, if this journey sounds remotely familiar, you’re going to love this album, as it applies the subtle, format-nostaligia flecked modern production techniques that you have come to know and love to the kinds of sounds that first brought you into this world of sound. In other words, think of it as being similar to listening to LFO on a reclaimed tape deck with a fungal ear infection. Appealing, no?