Boards of Canada
|Boards of Canada|
Mike Sandison and Marcus Eoin performing at the Warp Lighthouse Party (1999)
|Also known as||Hell Interface|
|Genres||Electronica, IDM, downtempo, ambient techno, psychedelia|
|Labels||Warp, Skam, Music70|
|Associated acts||Odd Nosdam, Hexagon Sun|
|Past members||Christopher Horne|
Boards of Canada are a Scottish electronic music duo consisting of brothers Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin. Signing to Skam and then Warp Records in the 1990s, the duo received recognition following the release of their influential debut album Music Has the Right to Children in 1998. They have since released subsequent recordings to critical praise, including Geogaddi (2002) and Tomorrow's Harvest (2013), and have remained reclusive, rarely giving interviews or performing live.
The duo's music incorporates elements such as vintage synthesisers, analogue production methods, hip hop-inspired breakbeats, and samples from 1970s public broadcasting programmes and other outdated media; it has been described as exploring themes of nostalgia, childhood memory, and nature. In 2012, FACT called them "one of the best-known and best-loved electronic acts of the last two decades."
- 1 History
- 2 Style and methods
- 3 In media
- 4 Discography
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Early years (1986–1994)
Growing up in a musical family, brothers Michael Sandison (born 1 June 1970) and Marcus Eoin (born Marcus Eoin Sandison, 21 July 1971) began playing instruments at a young age. They experimented with recording techniques at around the age of 10, using tape machines to layer cut-up samples of found sounds over compositions of their own.
In their teens they participated in a number of amateur bands. However, it was not until 1986 when Marcus was invited to join Mike's band that Boards of Canada was born, naming themselves after the educational TV program distributor National Film Board of Canada, which they watched as children. By 1989, the band had been reduced to Sandison and Eoin. In the early 1990s, a number of collaborations took place and the band put on small shows among the "Hexagon Sun" collective.
Music Has the Right to Children (1995–2002)
In 1995, the band made their first Hexagon Sun studio release, the EP Twoism. Like earlier Music70 releases, it was produced in a self-financed limited run and was privately distributed, primarily to friends and labels. Unlike previous releases, however, a small number of copies were also released to the public through a mailing list. Though not a widespread commercial release, it was considered of sufficient quality and worth to be subsequently re-pressed in 2002.
The band made another release in 1996; titled Boc Maxima, it was a semi-private release that was notable for being a full-length album, and was the precursor to Music Has the Right to Children, with which it shares many tracks.
Boards of Canada's first commercial release occurred after attracting the attention of Autechre's Sean Booth, of the English label Skam Records, one of many people who were sent a demo EP. Skam issued what was considered Boards of Canada's first "findable" work, Hi Scores, in 1996.
The debut studio album, Music Has the Right to Children, was released in April 1998. The album consists of longer tracks mixed with song vignettes. It also includes one of the duo's most popular songs, "Roygbiv". Music Has the Right to Children received widespread acclaim upon release. It featured at #35 on Pitchfork's "Top 100 Albums of the 1990s" list. It was ranked #91 in Mojo's 100 Modern Classics list.
John Peel featured Boards of Canada on his BBC Radio 1 program in July of that year. The session featured two remixes from Music Has the Right to Children — "Aquarius (Version 3)" and "Olson (Version 3)" — along with the tracks "Happy Cycling" and "XYZ". Excluding "XYZ", the set was released on a Warp Records CD titled Peel Session TX 21/07/1998.
Though never an actively touring band, Boards of Canada did perform a handful of shows. Early shows saw them supporting Warp labelmates Seefeel and Autechre in a handful of UK dates. They also participated in a few festivals and multi-artist bills including two Warp parties: Warp's 10th Anniversary Party in 1999 and The Incredible Warp Lighthouse Party almost one year later. They made their most prominent showing in 2001 as one of the headliners at the Tortoise-curated All Tomorrow's Parties. They have not performed a live show since.
Geogaddi and The Campfire Headphase (2002–2009)
Their second studio album, Geogaddi, was released in February 2002. Like Music Has the Right to Children, this album consists of longer tracks mixed with song vignettes. It also presents a darker sound than its predecessor. Geogaddi received universal acclaim from music critics.
It was described by Sandison as "a record for some sort of trial-by-fire, a claustrophobic, twisting journey that takes you into some pretty dark experiences before you reach the open air again."
Their third album for Warp Records, The Campfire Headphase, was released on 17 October 2005 in Europe and 18 October 2005 in the United States. The album featured fifteen tracks, including "Peacock Tail", "Chromakey Dreamcoat," and "Dayvan Cowboy". Two versions of "Dayvan Cowboy" — the original and a remix by Odd Nosdam — are on the six-track EP, Trans Canada Highway, which was released on 26 May 2006.
In late 2009, the Warp20 (Recreated) compilation featured two BoC covers, one by Bibio of their song "Kaini Industries" and one by Mira Calix of "In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country". Warp20 (Recreated) is part of the larger Warp20 boxed set, which also includes two previously unreleased Boards of Canada tracks, "Seven Forty Seven" and a 1.8 second sample of "Spiro".
Tomorrow's Harvest (2013)
On Record Store Day 2013, a vinyl record containing a short clip of music which was believed to be the work of Boards of Canada surfaced at the New York record store Other Music. Shortly after the release, Warp Records vouched for the record's authenticity. The record (titled ------/------/------/xxxxxx/------/------) contained a short clip of audio followed by a voice reading six digits similar to that of a numbers station. The record revealed what was to become one of six unique numbers that were part of a type of alternate reality game that was used to promote the release of their next studio album.
The rest of the codes were hidden through various websites and online communities, as well as being broadcast over BBC Radio One, NPR, and Adult Swim. After much speculation, the official website for the band redirected users to another website which asked for the user to enter a password. Once all six unique codes are entered, a video is shown announcing Tomorrow's Harvest, their fourth studio album. The album was released on 5 June 2013 in Japan, 10 June 2013 in Europe, and 11 June 2013 in the United States to widespread critical acclaim.
In 2016 Boards Of Canada released two remixes. The first, of NEVERMEN's "Mr Mistake", was released on 12 January, and was followed shortly after by a remix of "Sisters" by Odd Nosdam on 22 February. On 17 February 2017, an instrumental version of the "Mr Mistake" remix was released.
In 2017 Boards of Canada released a remix of "Sometimes" by The Sexual Objects.
Style and methods
BoC's sound has been described by AllMusic as “evocative, mournful, sample-laden downtempo music often sounding as though produced on malfunctioning equipment excavated from the ruins of an early-'70s computer lab.” Critic Simon Reynolds described their style as "a hazy sound of smeared synth-tones and analog-decayed production, carried by patient, sleepwalking beats, and aching with nostalgia" while crediting then with "reinvent[ing]" elements of psychedelia through the deliberate misuse of technology. Their distinctive style is a product of their use of analogue equipment, mix of electronic and conventional instrumentation, use of distorted samples as well as live and recorded lyrics, and their layering and blending of these elements. For example, the duo have revealed that they use many old tape machines, such as those manufactured by Grundig. They also make use of samples from 1970s television shows and other media prevalent in the era of the brothers' shared childhood, especially the nature-inspired documentaries produced by the National Film Board of Canada.
Brief interludes or vignettes feature prominently in BoC's music. Such songs are often weaving melodies or speech accompanied by atmospherics to capture a specific moment or mood. They often last less than two minutes, but, as BoC state, "we write far more of [these] than the so-called 'full-on' tracks, and, in a way, they are our own favourites". BoC have written an enormous number of such fragments as well as full-length tracks, most of which have been held back from release. It does not appear that their music is made exclusively for commercial release; rather, albums seem to be the result of selecting complementary songs from current work. For instance, Geogaddi's allegedly involved the creation of 400 song fragments and 64 complete songs, of which 22 were selected (possibly 23, if the final track of complete silence is included). Says Marcus: "The idea of the perfect album is this amorphous thing that we're always aiming at […] the whole point of making music is at least to aim at your own idea of perfection."
Interviews with the Sandison brothers provide some insight into their creative process. They have cited several acts that have influenced their work including Joni Mitchell, the Incredible String Band ("we have all the String Band records […] our rural sensibilities are similar"), the Beatles ("[they] really became enthralling to us through their psychedelism"), and My Bloody Valentine ("even if we don't sound like them, there's a connection in terms of the approach to music").
They have also expressed a strong interest in the power of subliminal messaging and their work is full of cryptic messages including references to numerology and cult figures such as David Koresh of the Branch Davidians. When questioned about their aims in making such references, BoC express themselves in neutral terms ("We're not religious at all [...] and if we're spiritual at all it's purely in the sense of caring about art and inspiring people with ideas.") while remaining fascinated with the ability of music to influence the minds of others ("[We] do actually believe that there are powers in music that are almost supernatural. I think you actually manipulate people with music...").
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- Many Boards of Canada songs are used in the BBC's motoring show Top Gear, such as "Pete Standing Alone" from the album Music Has the Right to Children and "1969" from Geogaddi. Most recently, the songs "New Seeds" and "Gemini" from Tomorrow's Harvest were used in the third episode of the twenty-first series of the show.
- The song "Dayvan Cowboy" from The Campfire Headphase was used in CSI: Miami, Kyle XY also a new Nissan commercial for their zero gravity seats, and the 2012 film, Now Is Good.
- The composition "Rue The Whirl" was used in an episode of Spaced.
- The composition "Amo Bishop Roden" was used in Season 3, episode 5 of Skins, while "Everything You Do Is A Balloon" was used in Season 6, episode 10.
- A number of compositions including "Turquoise Hexagon Sun", "Aquarius", and "Sixtyniner" were used in the dark humour animated series Monkey Dust, which aired on BBC Three from 2003–2005.
- The compositions "Gyroscope" and "You Could Feel the Sky" were used in the Norwegian Black Metal documentary Until The Light Takes Us.
- The song "Gyroscope" was used in the 2012 horror film "Sinister".
- The composition "Open the Light" was used in "Are we still evolving?", an episode of the BBC Horizon documentary program.
- David Firth often uses Boards of Canada compositions in his animations, notably "Beware the Friendly Stranger," a track from Geogaddi which was the backing to Firth's cartoon series Salad Fingers.
- Adult Swim on Cartoon Network sometimes uses samples from The Campfire Headphase, Music Has the Right to Children, and Geogaddi for its bumps or messages to its audience.
- "Happy Cycling" was used in season two, episode twelve of the show Six Feet Under.
- "Olson" and "Everything You Do Is A Balloon" were included in Louis Theroux's documentary Law and Disorder in Philadelphia.
- "'A is to B as B is to C" was used in Nathan Barley.
- "Smokes Quantity" was used in the Channel 4 Documentary series The Dark Side of Porn season 1, episode 3 Debbie Does Dallas Uncovered.
- "Peacock Tail" was used in Ani*Kuri15 anime shorts.
- "Everything You Do Is A Balloon" was featured in the 2002 Lynne Ramsay directed movie Morvern Callar.
- "Ready Lets Go" was used in the 2017 Edgar Wright directed film Baby Driver although it wasn't included in the soundtrack .
- Deadmau5 has mentioned "Bored of Canada" is assumed to refer to Boards of Canada. This track would later feature on Zimmerman's 2005 album Get Scraped and his 2008 compilation Project 56 (album).
- American hip-hop collective Seshollowaterboyz sampled the title track from the EP Twoism for their song "WeDontBelieveYou."
- Duo $uicideboy$ sampled "Music Is Math" from the album Geogaddi for their song "Clouds As Witnesses."
- Music Has the Right to Children (Warp/Skam, 1998) #193 UK
- Geogaddi (Warp/Music70, 2002) #21 UK
- The Campfire Headphase (Warp, 2005) #41 UK
- Tomorrow's Harvest (Warp, 2013) #7 UK, #13 US
- Twoism (Music70, 1995)
- Hi Scores (Skam, 1996)
- Aquarius (Skam, 1998)
- Peel Session TX 21/07/1998 (Warp, 1999)
- In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country (Warp/Music70, 2000)
- Trans Canada Highway (Warp, 2006)
Old Tunes and other oddities
Supposed early Boards of Canada recordings have been found online, claiming to be original tracks from Catalog 3, Acid Memories, Hooper Bay and other pre-Twoism albums. All unreleased albums are presumed to be inauthentic BoC recordings, with the exceptions of Boc Maxima, the Old Tunes tapes and the Random 35 Tracks Tape.
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- Demers, Joanna (October 2010). Listening through the Noise: The Aesthetics of Experimental Electronic Music. Oxford University Press,. pp. 49–50.
- Morpurgo, Joseph. "The genius of Boards Of Canada in 10 essential tracks". FACT. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
- Staff Lists: Top 100 Albums of the 1990s - Features - Pitchfork, Pitchfork.com, retrieved 2013-06-15
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- Sean Michaels (2013-04-22). "Does Boards of Canada's record-store clue point to new album? | Music | guardian.co.uk". Guardian. Retrieved 2013-06-15.
- Pattison, Louis (6 June 2013). "Boards of Canada: 'We've become a lot more nihilistic over the years'". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 September 2014.
- "Boards of Canada Released a Mysterious 12" on Record Store Day | News". Pitchfork. 2013-04-21. Retrieved 2013-06-15.
- Minsker, Evan. "Boards of Canada Commercial Airs on Cartoon Network" (April 2013) Pitchfork. Retrieved on 28 April 2013.
- Pelly, Jenn. "Boards of Canada Mystery Continues with New Password Protected Website" (April 2013) Pitchfork. Retrieved on 28 April 2013.
- NEVERMEN (12 January 2016). "NEVERMEN - Mr Mistake (Boards of Canada Remix)" – via YouTube.
- LeavingRecords (22 February 2016). "Odd Nosdam - Sisters (Boards of Canada remix)" – via YouTube.
- NEVERMEN (17 February 2017). "NEVERMEN - Mr Mistake (Boards of Canada Remix Instrumental)" – via YouTube.
- Bush, John. "Geogaddi – Boards of Canada". AllMusic. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
- Reynolds, Simon. "Why Boards of Canada's Music Has the Right to Children Is the Greatest Psychedelic Album of the '90s". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
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- Poolman, Koen. "Play Twice Before Listening Archived 27 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine." (Mar 2002), OOR magazine. Retrieved on 20 February 2007.
- Kyrou, Ariel & Leloup, Jean-Yves. "Two Aesthetes of Electronic Music Archived 24 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine." (Jun 1998), Virgin Megaweb magazine. Retrieved on 20 February 2007.
- Brown, Colin. "What the hell is up with Boards of Canada? Shorter analysis of Geogaddi". Retrieved on 23 March 2006.
- Nicholls, Steve. "Big Country Archived 24 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine." (March 2001), XLR8R Issue 47. Retrieved on 21 February 2007.
- Jagernauth, Kevin. "Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood To Score Lynne Ramsay's 'We Need To Talk About Kevin'". The Playlist. Retrieved 2016-03-24.
- "Boards of Canada - Ready Lets Go (Audio) [BABY DRIVER (2017) - SOUNDTRACK]". Youtube. Tv Series & Movie Soundtrack (3) (Netflix OST). Jun 30, 2017. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
- Discography – bocpages – the unofficial boards of canada wiki, bocpages, retrieved 4 May 2012
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