The Boats: Our Small Ideas

Our Small Ideas is an undoubtedly generous collection, seeing as how it features nineteen tracks, seven of them hard-to-find or previously unreleased and newly added to the original 2008 release (itself hard-to-find, given that only 200 copies were made available through The Boats own Our Small Ideas label). The material captures The Boats—original members Andrew Hargreaves and Craig Tattersall, prior to the formal addition of Danny Norbury in 2009—operating in even more fragile manner than usual, such that words like innocent and intimate come to mind as the electronic pop miniatures fill the room; in their own words, the material signifies “a return to our bedroom recording past, where recordings were made quietly in the early hours so as not to disturb the neighbors.”

Revealing that the group's music is a perfect fit for flau, “Information For Employers” is instantly identifiable as The Boats, even if its marriage of acoustic guitar plucks and music box tinkles distills the label's soothing aesthetic into a single setting. Sometimes smothered in hiss, speckled with piano and guitar phrases, and animated by rhythms formed from clicks and tiny noises, the music plays like the warmest of breezes, with guest Chris Stewart's soft vocal presence floating atop the softly sparkling surfaces of ten songs. Songs such as “We Sometimes Forget” and the tongue-in-cheekily titled “A Party at Break-Neck Speed” are as much children's lullabies as conventional pop songs. In such cases, Our Small Ideas could pass for a collaborative outing by The Boats and Lullatone as much as a solo project, while the woozy electronic fragments dotting “This Song Has Been Intentionally Left Blank” hints at what a Boards of Canada-The Boats union might produce.

In terms of the newly added material, The Boats remix two of their own songs (“The List Of Our Mistakes” and “May Our Enimies [sic] Never Find Happiness”—both marred by distractingly distorted vocal treatments) alongside an electroacoustic makeover of “Little Song At Little Time” by aus (Yasuhiko Fukuzono) that's one of the album's most pastoral and serenading moments and “You Didn't Expect Me To Care,” which includes an ear-catching contribution from clarinetist Annabel Keach. It's charming stuff, to be sure, though fans of the group's music should know upfront that beats are de-emphasized on Our Small Ideas, making it very much a recording to relax instead of be energized by. Lovely little vignettes like “At Little Time,” however, make the idea of listening to the recording anything but an objectionable proposition.

February 2013