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Boards Of Canada

Recording from somewhere in the Pentland Hills area, or so we’ve been led to believe, Edinburgh-born brothers Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin (plus initially Christopher Horne, aka Christ), emerged from their bunkers from time to time, although 1995 looked to a significant year of their musical re-birth. Sampling and experimenting with tape machines since ’86 and cutting the odd tape from their Music70 base/enterprise, b.o.c’s move to the Hexagon Sun studio and a signing to Skam Records led to post-demo work. Watch out for real scammers, modern-day internet fraudsters who’ve claimed to have found authentic releases pre-1996; not all are false though.
BOARDS OF CANADA earned their acclaim after recording a ridiculous amount of tracks, the best of which became available in 1995 on the now legendary EP/mini-set, TWOISM {*7} – originally limited to 100 copies and ever so collectable; check out `Iced Cooly’, the title track and `Seeya Later’.
Next up was for the aforementioned experimental electronica label, Skam, who signed the pair in 1996. Hailed as Skam’s greatest release to date, the `Hi Scores’ EP, set the ball rolling for the duo. Note, that with around the same amount of tracks and playing time, it could well be classed – like its predecessor – as a mini-album. Audiences couldn’t get enough of its catchy but simple, A-B-C (or L.F.O.) synth formats and melodies. References were, of course, made to The APHEX TWIN and Jega, however `Hi Scores’ had a better twisted backbeat to its grooves than, say, Richard D. James’ cult “Analogue Bubblebath Vol.1”. Tracks such as `Turquoise Hexagon Sun’ and `June 9th’, also fooled listeners into thinking the band were American by its sheer 1992 hip-hop nostalgia and chilled out beach party vibes.
These impressive records were quickly followed up in late 1996 by a series of tracks for UMV and Slam/Musik Aus Strom side-project label, Mask, with 1998 witnessing the unfettering of the excellent “difficult” follow-up release, MUSIC HAS THE RIGHT TO CHILDREN {*10}. Cool as well as deeply serene, the album (distributed by Warp Records) intensified that early 90s Miami trip-hop identity and added in a little scratching and sampling for good measure. A prime example of this was the single out-take, and the most recognisable track you’ll hear from the album, `Roygbiv’, which sounded like the Terminator doing slow motion break dancing in a crowded Beverly Hills house party. Alternating between short-sharp-shocks of minute-esque vignettes (`Wildlife Analysis’, `The Colour Of The Fire’, `Bocuma’ and `Olson’, all effective and volcanic), plus lengthy cinematic-like trips of ecstasy in `An Eagle In Your Mind’, `Telaphasic Workshop’, `Sixtyten’, `Turquoise Hexagon Sun’ (again!), `Rue The Whirl’, `Aquarius’ (the “orange” track) and `Open The Light’, this hour-long set was in “another green world” all of its own.
The duo finally returned post-millennium with new material on an EP: `In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country’. The 4-track disc was an unexpected trip into the psychedelic shenanigans that were BOARDS OF CANADA; the title track coming off best next to the icy `Zoetrope’, the spin-cycle `Kid For Today’, and `Amo Bishop Roden’.
In February 2002, their long-anticipated sophomore album, GEOGADDI {*8}, was released to heavy critical acclaim, which resulted in their first interview with the NME. For this they described the open Scottish wilderness as an inspiration for their hallucinogenic, spaced-out synth doodles. They also declared that the meaning of their moniker was indeed (as older readers may recall!) lifted from an educational company whose films on science and nature had been shown while the pair had attended school. This reflected a lot of the new album; one track in question, `Dandelion’, had a backwards Moog drone accompanied by actor Leslie Nielsen from “Naked Gun” fame narrating a TV documentary about a diving team; this segued into the 6-minute epic `Sunshine Recorder’. Track 16 of the 23, `The Devil Is In The Details’, had a simple keyboard riff on a loop which played the insane shrills of a child and the voice of a distorted, disjointed telephone operator. A near Top 20 entry, the double-album was much darker and yet much more layered in terms of themes, music and ambience. For two guys living in the countryside this was quite a feat, a real slice of math-electronica that was both gentle and eerily sublime.
Three years in the lab, THE CAMPFIRE HEADPHASE (2005) {*7}, introduced straight-up guitars into the production tank, although the overall effect was erring towards BoC-by-numbers. Loitering on the outskirts of the Top 40, the hour-long set had little of the quirkiness of its predecessors, but there was merit in `Dayvan Cowboy’, the Krautrock-esque `’84 Pontiac Dream’, `Chromakey Dreamcoat’, `Hey Saturday Sun’ and `Slow This Bird Down’.
For several years, rumours of a fourth album proper circulated without much conclusive evidence that BoC were in fact in the studio. Then, out of the blue (at first in Japan), arrived the new album, TOMORROW’S HARVEST (2013) {*8}, which surprisingly gate-crashed the UK Top 10. A definite diversion from the techno-pop of fellow chart-combers, DAFT PUNK, one could see the odd nature/geographical TV documentary baying for the rights to air such sombre and cerebral dirges: `Reach For The Dead’, `Telepath’, `Cold Earth’, `Collapse’, and others of a similar ilk. Pin back your earlobes, a new age of ambience is upon us.
© MC Strong 2000-2006/AS-MCS // rev-up MCS Jun2013

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