The music of Boards of Canada has its way of soundtracking a journey within your own imagination. Floating amidst the realms of beauty and mystery, the music of Scottish siblings Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin allows you to become your own deity where you can create your own world that varies in colors, shapes, oceans, and skies. Here is where your senses can bloom to their full potential. No imagination is too vivid. Boards of Canada just want you to dream.
With releases dating back to 1995, the Warp Records stalwarts have cemented their roles as IDM icons, surprisingly with minimal press and marketing. Believing in the power of subliminal messaging, their work specializes in evocative, mournful, downtempo material with familiar motifs of nature and childhood memories—but their sound has equally been described as coming from malfunctioning equipment excavated from the ruins of an early-’70s computer lab. More recently, while the world was caught up in the hyped release of another European electronic duo, Boards of Canada were dropping pieces of their Tomorrow’s Harvest puzzle around the globe, creating an underground buzz that was both meaningful and humble. As we welcome the group’s impending fourth studio long-player, which drops on Monday, June 10, let us reminisce on their past, with our 10 favorite Boards of Canada tracks.
The glitch-hop vocal scatter of “Telphasic Workshop” showcases the duo’s knack for creating a cerebral mood with the oddest of samples—without sounding completely overworked. Simple shifts in audial sculpting through manipulating the sample make for a final product that is rich in its chaotic precision.
Upon first listen of “1969,” one gets a mellow, summer vibe from the sonics, but the lyrics tell a different story. The bright starburst synthesizer works its way around the lines “Although not a follower of [sample reversed]/She’s a former devout Branch Davidian.” If you flip the sample back to its original state, it reveals the name David Koresh, who was the leader of the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas. The time on the track comes in at 4:19, which coincidentally was the date the Waco compound was torched. “1969” is a perfect example of how Boards of Canada use thought-provoking material to create another hidden sub-layer to their music, without you knowing it.
In the same vein of “1969’s” mood of a distant yet familiar era of the past, so cries the song “In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country.” Lyrics “Come out and live in a religious community/In a beautiful place out in the country” circle back on the group’s recurring cult themes.
Amo Bishop Roden was the widow of one of David Koresh’s rivals. The song’s ambient wash of textures coupled with the story of Amo herself add to the pensive nature that each Boards of Canada song creates.
“An Eagle in Your Mind” is a track that focuses mainly on its cyclic panning loop drones and somewhat unspoken pulse that increases in pressure as the song goes on. Here, the brothers exercise their genius with creating textures.
The spacey, galactic lounge vibe of “Turquoise Hexagon Sun” is developed through the tone of the electric piano and a kick drum that sounds like poorly distributed weight in a clothes dryer. Using field recordings to create the atmospheric noise, BoC’s subtle ambience makes for an enigmatic experience.
“Everything You Do Is a Balloon” is a prime example of the duo’s infatuation with gauzy, ambient synths and minor-key shifts. Though they use this technique in quite a few of their songs, this track proves that sometimes all you really need is a simple loop and a relaxed drum sequence to create the right kind of vibe.
The intro to “Dayvan Cowboy” reads more like a national anthem than it does anything else. As the song progresses, however, the somewhat hokey guitar riff is just the groundwork to a piece that can simply be defined as “triumphant.” Triangles and shakers are layered on top of acoustic distortion that later morphs into a crash-heavy drum solo.
The deep pressure movement and unconventional percussion of “Left Side Drive” create an underwater effect that sonically puts you at ease. Beautifully sparse production that is darkly emotive.
This rhythmic lo-fi number showcases the duo’s never-disappointing cheery dreamscapes made with analog sounds.