On aboriginal glance, the name ‘Boards Of Canada’ is a admirable non sequitur, a riddle accomplished for the cracking.
Its origin, however, isn’t difficult to unpick. The byword is plucked broad from The National Filmboard Of Canada, whose po-faced educational films provided a arrangement for the duo’s characteristic artful sensibilities. Boards Of Canada associates Marcus Eoin and Mike Sandison, it should be noted, spent a amplitude in Canada as accouchement during the Filmboard’s heydey. All in all, then, Boards Of Canada is a absolute bandage handle: it perplexes, it offers a account of intent, and it emanates from the black base of memory. Which aloof about sums up what makes the pair’s music actually so special.
Boards Of Canada’s assignment wallows in the past, but additionally interrogates it, critiques it.
Boards Of Canada abide one of the best-known and admired cyberbanking acts of the aftermost two decades. Out of all of Warp’s banderole artists, alone Aphex Accompanying and (perhaps) Squarepusher affect the aforementioned array of delirious admiration. These two adolescence ‘friends’ (more on that later) alloyed New Age, hip-hop and babble into a aberrant new gumbo, anchored at the aperture amid the abstruse and the metric. Added hasty influences accommodate agit-industrialists Test Dept, Jan Svankmajer and New Scientist, all of which drain through into the tunes. Crucially, Boards Of Canada’s music is attack through with a able faculty of wistfulness; in Sandison’s words, “When I was a foetus, I was cornball for aback I was sperm”. Any Boards Of Canada almanac is a accumulating of eviscerated jingles, aberrant radio signals, stentorian documentary voiceovers and consumerist detritus. Their assignment wallows in the past, but additionally interrogates it, critiques it.
The duo’s music has hardly been alone in the aftermost few years; indeed, their aboriginal two LPs booty pride of abode in the avant-garde cyberbanking canon. Their influence, however, has never been so assured as it is now. Keyboard fiends like Oneohtrix Point Never ability adjure your Carpenters and your Grosskopfs, but Boards Of Canada are apparently a big acumen why anemic adolescent men with arpeggiators are arena capital stages rather than bedrooms. The befuddled head-nod(-off) of Capital Attrakionz and Lil B owes a lot to the pair’s beginning boom-bap/ambient hybrid. Some of 2012’s best acclaimed music – R.I.P highlight ‘N E W’, Lone’s Galaxy Garden, d’Eon’s Music For Keyboards alternation – bears a actual absolute debt to BoC’s characteristic soundworld.
Their access has never been so assured as it is now.
More than anything, Boards Of Canada’s artful aspect seems to accept appear aback into vogue. “Nostalgic” appears to accept become analytical autograph for a actual accurate set of sonic criteria: adapted music, generally of a postmodern disposition, that has been base or blocked to some degree. It’s now de rigeur for producers built-in in the mid-1990s to advertence long-defunct technologies (tape hiss, aged timbres) as a agency of articulating yearning, as if the cant of blahs was anchored during the Age Of The Betamax. I’d altercate that Boards Of Canada – as a aftereffect of their acceptance as able-bodied as their aptitude – did added than anyone abroad to arrange the way in which a admirers accept nostalgia. Their memories accept became our memories.
The afterward ten tracks attempt to accommodate an overview of the assorted facets of Boards Of Canada’s bashful but advantageous discography. Early works, remixes and B-sides bundle up adjoin added accustomed pieces. Alike Boards Of Canada’s rarest actual (not to acknowledgment a bulk of BoC apocrypha) has continued been in apportionment in the grubbier abode of the internet, so their assignment is able-bodied aural the dilettante’s grasp. All in all, this adviser endeavours to account a abounding account of Warp’s favourite past-masters – the kings of arrested development.
1. Boards Of Canada‘Spectrum’ (from A Few Old Tunes, Music70 cassette, 1995)
Boards Of Canada’s music generally gets declared as redemptive, a postlapsarian attack to ameliorate a long-lost childhood. It’s account remembering, however, that Eoin and Sandison were already authoritative cyberbanking music calm continued afore they hit puberty. As children, the brace would abuse and braid shortwave radio recordings on a aged carriageable recorder. This aforementioned air of believing concern is axiomatic throughout their juvenilia, at already winningly broken-down and conspicuously diverse. Their fabulous 1994 Play By Numbers EP (survived alone by chugging fragment ‘Wouldn’t You Like To Be Free’) sees them investigating shoegazey indie-rock. The a broadcast sketches that accomplish up the A Few Old Tunes series, meanwhile, actualization the brace on analogously adventurous form.
Picking an admirable cut from A Few Old Tunes is a fool’s errand. Variety is the adjustment of the day: acerbic abode abstracts (‘David Came To Mahana’im’), twee miniatures (‘Jimbo Rehearsing’) and casual cut-ups (‘Blockbusters’) all attempt for attention. ‘Spectrum’, however, credibility appear the bandage BoC would become. The clue aligns the abashing and the sweet, and keeps bisected an eye on the dancefloor in the process. For all its rudeness, there’s a absolute amplitude to ‘Spectrum’- the complete of brume clearing, of ablaze actuality thrown. From the happy-slap breakbeat through to the phased synth riffs, it’s as irrepressible as annihilation that was to follow.
2. Boards Of Canada ‘Oirectine’ (from Twoism EP, Music70 LP, 1995)
Biographically, Twoism is an important almanac for BoC. The pair, afresh unknown, beatific the bandage to Autechre’s Sean Booth, who afterwards acicular them in the administration of Skam Records [Skam appear the 1996 EP Hi Scores]. Spiritually, it’s additionally a battleground release. Twoism has become article of a mystical artefact, the Lost Ark of all the BoC ephemera.
Part of this is due to its concrete rarity. With alone 100 or so copies originally pressed, the EP was fiendishly difficult to clue bottomward until its abounding copy on Warp in 2002. Some of the cachet is additionally bottomward to the abnormality of its production: Boards Of Canada c. Twoism was actually a three-piece, aggrandized by Christopher ‘Christ.’ Horne. Appear on the their own Music70 label, it emerges from a time aback Boards Of Canada was a birthmark on the Hexagon Sun art collective, a accumulation of accompany primarily “interested in the cerebral capabilities of sounds and images than their aesthetics”.
But, added than annihilation else, there’s additionally a faculty that Twoism is Boards Of Canada’s enabling record, that annihilation which followed could accept existed afterwards it. ‘Oirectine’ is the dest archetype of the ambiguity that the brace would afterwards perfect. Where the choir is pretty, the ballad is paranoid; the agency advance is warm, but the contrapuntal synth washes are actually chilly. The Nightmares On Wax grooviness ability not accept anachronous brilliantly, but it’s still a abundant archetype of the pair’s aberrant charm.
3. Boards Of Canada ‘Red Moss’ (from BOC Maxima, Music70 CD, 1996)
One of the criticisms chucked at Boards Of Canada with abstinent regularity is that their music is acutely attenuated in scope. What acolytes ability alarm ‘vision’ and ‘consistency’ can be adequately calmly corrective as ‘saminess’. To these ears, however, the allegation doesn’t actually wash. A bound sonic palette needn’t be problematic: affluence of acts (Burial, The Ramones) plough a distinct furrow, and burrow all address of jewels in the process. Added pertinently, it’s account annihilation that the BoC discography veers all over the boutique stylistically. If Boards Of Canada are sometimes decumbent to pleasantness, ‘Red Moss’ is a admonition that the duo can ataxia as able-bodied and soothe.
Eoin and Sandison are accessible about the accent of abandon and atrocity in their work. In one interview, they bless the way in which sonic abstracts are “destroyed by the sampling process”; elsewhere, they call how they bounced tones amid bandage channels “until the complete started dematerialization into hell”. An old Crafter account alike suggests there are things in their alive actualization ‘”that could accident you”. There’s actually a amount of abnegation in their use of distortion, a faculty of bludgeoning their antecedent actual into submission.
‘Red Moss’ is plucked from Boc Maxima, their longest (and best) odds’n’sods collection. Although abounding of the added advance on the anthology would alum assimilate Music Has The Appropriate To Children, few actually administer ‘Red Moss”s punch. The angled VHS accentuation is brought into chat with added a musics: those absence snares are authentic rave, and there’s a bull affection that brings hard-edged techno to mind. Brutal and blasted, it’s a dust-kicking scorcher.
4. Boards Of Canada ‘Chinook’ (from Aquarius, Skam 7″, 1998)
Like ‘Red Moss’, ‘Chinook’ is a accomplished archetype of Boards Of Canada at their fastest and hardest. Although the clue originally appeared on BoC Maxima, it’s the lengthier adaptation on the ‘Aquarius’ 7″ that packs the bigger wallop. There’s not a aroma of wooze: this is precise, aeriform stuff.
It’s additionally an absorbing manual from a acute liminal aeon for the Boards. 1996’s Hi Scores EP had aloft the group’s profile, and the approaching Music Has The Appropriate To Accouchement was to see them breach through in earnest.
‘Chinook’ additionally makes the cut because, advised alongside cast ‘Aquarius’, it offers some acumen into the algebraic tendencies so acute to BoC’s identity. Eoin advised Artificial Intelligence, and Sandison has a well-documented absorption in numerology. Numbers crop up in titles (‘Music Is Math’, ‘The Smallest Weird Number’), artwork (that fractal-like Geogaddi cover) and abaft the scenes (Music70). The axis of numbers in their assignment is a basic allotment of the pair’s adorable ambivalence: their music is acutely emotive, but additionally able-bodied acquainted of its cachet as a beck of 0’s and 1’s.
‘Aquarius’ actualization a cord of digits apprehend over a louche alarm bassline, but ‘Chinook’ does a bigger job of cogent the maths at assignment in the music. In an account with French e-zine Virgin Megaweb, the brace declared their access to accent as “binary”, their bang accouterment “dark, affected backdrops to go with our melodies”. ‘Chinook”s blast rhythms, alternate and cautiously calibrated, body this analytical compositional approach.
5. Boards Of Canada ‘Roygbiv’ (from Music Has The Appropriate To Children, Warp/Skam LP, 1998)
For all their wilful obscurity, Boards Of Canada accept consistently comported themselves like a pop group. Bands name-checked as influences by the brace accommodate The Beach Boys and adolescent Scots The Incredible Cord Band. The architecture blocks of pop – melody, immediacy, replayability – are actually axial to their sound; in Sandison’s words, “the important affair is that you can blare our tunes”. Annihilation in the Boards Of Canada songbook is actually as whistleable as ‘Roygbiv’.
‘Roygbiv’ is addition BoC Maxima hangover, accustomed a additional airing on Music Has The Appropriate To Children. Their admission Warp LP charcoal their best acclaimed achievement, a complete addition to their characteristic soundworld. ‘Rue The Whirl’ and ‘Turquoise Hexagon Sun’ alluvium a blunted charm, while miniatures like ‘Kaini Industries’ or ‘The Color Of The Fire’ emphasised the affectation of the pair’s agreeable project. Unlike those characterless faces on the cover, Music Has The Appropriate To Accouchement is categorical and overflowing with character.
‘Roygbiv’ is one of their best texturally assorted pieces. A buzzsaw bassline plays off adjoin a bank piano. Analogue synths ebb and throb. “Great”, utters a child, conceivably addled by the fireworks exploding about him. The coaction amid bassline and angle resembles a bivouac round, and the melody is as addictive as they come. And afterwards 2:15 – it’s gone.
6. Boards Of Canada ‘Olsen (Version 3)’ (from Peel Session TX 21/07/1998, WARP LP, 1999)
In their ancient accurate interviews, it’s bright that Eoin and Sandison already conceived of Boards Of Canada as a alive audiovisual proposition. They talked about their absorption in manipulating audiences with “embedding and subliminals”, and declared their 8mm becloud accessories as axial to their art. Conceivably it’s surprising, then, that Boards Of Canada accept become acclaimed as some of a electronica’s best afraid performers. You can, actually literally, calculation the pair’s alive performances on the fingers of two hands.
Numerous alive abstracts abide of the group. Both their 1999 actualization in honour of Warp’s tenth ceremony and their 2001 actualization at the Tortoise-curated All Tomorrow’s Parties accept been preserved in bootleg form. Their 1998 Peel Session (released the afterward year by Warp) offers some acumen into their alive modus operandi, and it’s bright that BoC aren’t ones to about-face things up on stage. Rare clue ‘XYZ’ got a lot of the attention, apparently due to change rather than abundant built-in merit. ‘Aquarius (Version 3)’, it has to be said, is almost apparent from the original.
It’s alone the fuzzed-out booty on Music Has The Appropriate To Accouchement miniature ‘Olson’ that actually comes to activity in a alive setting. Over a awkward agenda counterpoint, Eoin and Sandison lay bottomward one of their sweetest pastoral melodies. The lead-line is added dank than on the Music Has The Appropriate To Accouchement version, and the final minute sounds as if the acetate is actuality broiled bottomward in real-time. It’s a reinterpretation that, afterwards abundant fuss or flourish, amps up the desolation of the original.
7. Hell Interface ‘The Midas Touch’ (from Mask500, Skam LP, 1999)
Waft a all the abstruse fug, and there’s affluence of humour in BoC’s work. From the skin-flick samples on A Few Old Tapes through to the Leslie Nielsen adornment on Geogaddi, Eoin and Sandison apperceive their way about a nudge and a wink. Their archness is never added apparent than on their assignment beneath the Hell Interface moniker.
The alias offered Eoin and Sandison an aperture for their wackiest impulses. 1997’s amiss ‘Soylent Night’, for example, actualization a apprentice account The Lord’s Prayer over a proto-Belbury Poly instrumental. Added blatant is ‘The Midas Touch’, originally appear on Skam’s MASK500 covers compilation. Eoin and Sandison annex the articulate band from Midnight Star’s 1986 original, and lay it collapsed over a slab of antsy electro. The after-effects are affably fraught, and break aloof on the appropriate ancillary of silly. If you’re attractive for the antecedent to those acrid R&B mash-ups by Hud Mo et al, coursing no further. In contempo years, things accept gone abounding circle: Solange Knowles sampled The Bivouac Headphase’s ‘Slow This Bird Down’ in 2008.
8. Boards Of Canada ‘In A Admirable Abode Out In The Country’ (from In A Admirable Abode Out In The Country, Warp 12″, 2000)
Perhaps Boards of Canada’s best acceptable affection is their gracefulness. Their best acute assignment has an elegance, a quasi-devotional poise, that eludes added practitioners. There’s no curtailment of jaw-meet-floor brightness in their assize (‘Everything You Do Is A Balloon’, ‘Over The Horizon Radar’), but ‘In A Admirable Abode Out In The County’ takes the wafer.
According to Eoin, “sometimes the accomplished point of the clue is about what the articulation is saying”. ‘In A Admirable Abode Out In The Country’ developed from a articulate atom recorded by one of the pair’s accompany and fed through a vocoder. The mantra – “Come out and alive with a religious association in a admirable abode out in the country” – wards off abuse and leans appear hope. Accouchement giggle, and the drums are aing afterwards anytime acceptable intrusive. Yes, the lyrics accompany adverse Koresh cults to mind, article the duo would go on to analyze in added detail on Geogaddi. Yet ‘In A Admirable Abode Out In The Country’, arced in analgesia, never loses its bashed faculty of innocence. They haven’t articulate this abstract since.
9. Boards Of Canada ‘Gyroscope’ (from Geogaddi, Warp LP, 2002)
When Geogaddi accustomed in 2002, it was already one of the best advancing cyberbanking albums of the decade. Casual accord corrective the almanac as a darker accompanying to Music Has The Appropriate To Children, but any array of alert accept suggests that Geogaddi is a altered array of hypothesis entirely. Music Has The Appropriate To Accouchement was a primer, cobbled calm from advance accustomed and new. Geogaddi, by contrast, is a capital-A album, conceived as a arrogant piece.
The brace declared the almanac as an “Alice In Wonderland adventure” or a “strange musical”, Whether it be the approved cadence amid advance and skits, or the aing faculty of alarming that lingers from alpha to finish, there’s a absolute faculty that Geogaddi is amalgam a burst fairytale narrative. If Boards Of Canada set out to agitate – their declared aim was “to let the added adult, disturbed, awful abandon of our imaginations blooper into appearance through the appealing tunes” – they canyon with aerial colours. ‘The Devil Is In The Details’ condenses the artifice of Eraserhead into four annoying minutes, and ‘1969’ plays like a bake song gone angrily wrong. ‘Gyroscope’ – a circadian becloud of adulterated vocals and affiliated percussion – does the best job of summarising Geogaddi’s camp delights.
10. Why? ‘Good Friday’ (Boards Of Canada remix) (from The Hollows, Tomlab 12”, 2007)
So to 2007. It ability be accounted hideously adverse to appearance over bisected a decade’s account of recorded output, decidedly aback the pair’s official discography is so slim. But, afresh again, it’s adamantine not to feel that 2002-7 saw Boards Of Canada ambiguity appear beneath absorbing territories.
The lead-up to 2005’s The Bivouac Headphase LP saw Eoin and Sandison abide a action of demystification. In a Pitchfork account that reads added like a analysis transcript, Eoin and Sandison appear that they had been brothers all along, agog to abstain comparisons to Orbital in the apprentice stages of their career. Afresh came a absolute account with The Wire, a allotment that brought the antisocial artists out of the adumbration and in advanced of a camera.
When it arrived, The Bivouac Headphase was cleaner and abundant added aboveboard than annihilation Boards Of Canada had done previously. Eerie samples were subbed for acoustic guitars, breakbeats traded for bossa. At its best, The Bivouac Headphase ability be alleged a rootsier In A Admirable Abode Out In The Country. But, for all its charms, it generally sounds appreciably like a Zero 7 record.
Boards Of Canada’s remix of Why?’s ‘Good Friday’ is one of the aftermost things we heard from the brace afore the radio blackout kicked in c.2009, but it’s assuredly one of their smartest moments. The brace accept repped the anticon aggregate for some time, axis out remixes for cLOUDDEAD and Boom Bip. Yoni Wolf’s endlessly quotable brainbombs (“sending adult SMSs to my ex’s new man / ‘Cos I can”) complete ambiguous ballsy over BoC’s across-the-board instrumental. Horns blast from mountaintops, and an ‘Aquarius’-style bassline plumbs the depths. You alike get a 90 additional djembe abandoned afore things appear to a aing – and who accepted that?
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