The Boats: Faulty Toned Radio

The Boats dock in Flau's Japanese harbour for the group's sixth outing Faulty Toned Radio. As they've done in the past, ship captains Andrew Hargreaves and Craig Tattersall seem intent on undercutting the loveliness of their laptop folk music by giving the songs wince-inducing (and grammatically incorrect) titles like “Get Folk Outta My Face” and “Its Not A Folk Its A Knife” so you're generally advised to ignore the titles and simply press “Play.” In many respects, The Boats' signature style remains—gentle, static-drenched electroacoustic melodies and scratchy beats heard via broken old radios—but there's a more pronounced rhythm dimension this time around and the band's lullabies are sonically denser and more animated and tightly structured than in the past. In “The Melody Mosquito,” faint tinkles and glockenspiel tones brighten the placid keyboard melodies while beats lightly skip through puddles of static. The pop and pitter-patter of beats also brings propulsion to the tranquility of “Harry, Stop It Please” and an insistent 4/4 kick drum—a rare thing indeed for The Boats—is even heard pulsating through “As For Substance.” A subtly funky groove underpins blurry piano chords and electronic accents in “This Is For You To Read” while, most jarringly, “Bikes Cars Boats Babes” and “The Blotch Is Crossed” actually place The Boats firmly on the dance floor by underpinning the songs' willowy electronic layers with clubby micro-house grooves (traces of acid—acid!—even seep into the closer “Hemihorn”). They say travel's good for the soul; certainly the trip away from home pays off for Hargreaves and Tattersall as Faulty Toned Radio finds them retaining the essence of The Boats' established sound while smartly extending it into new territory.

October 2008