Junior Boys’ latest — the obscurely titled “Begone Dull Care” (Google it for a kick) — is best experienced as a complete album. I’m aware that the idea of putting songs together that form some complete whole — interlocking, interfacing, interrupting — is oh, so Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, but the Boys have created a unified work without relying on CSNY-style storytelling for coherence. This is electronic music that doesn’t do what electronic music usually does. That is, even though it owes something to Daft Punk and Justice, Boards of Canada and Air, it encourages neither rhythmic gyration nor a healthy REM cycle.
What to do with electronic music that doesn’t make you dance or help you sleep? The obvious answer: don’t listen to it. A valid reaction, but the wrong one, as there is something exquisite about this album. Rather, you’ve got to listen to it differently. Which brings me back to my listening instructions.
Make sure shuffle is off, and turn the volume down till the breathy vocals are not just the suggestion of a whisper, but the thing itself. Then do something boring. As Loudon Wainwright would say, mow the floor or sweep the lawn. Write a reading response (or, as I’ve been doing, a 250-word music review). You’ll find that the meandering synths, the barely-there drum machine, the thin, shimmering vocals give a pleasing texture to even the most mundane of activities.
Album over, you’ll realize your task was better for having been set to music. Vice versa, too: banished to the edge of your consciousness, the blips, beats and bleeps form patterns that — after multiple tasks — remain both familiar and novel, at track one and, yes, track eight.