The genius of Boards Of Canada in 10 essential tracks

On first glance, the name ‘Boards Of Canada’ is a wonderful non sequitur, a riddle ripe for the cracking.

Its origin, however, isn’t difficult to unpick. The phrase is plucked wholesale from The National Filmboard Of Canada, whose po-faced educational films provided a template for the duo’s distinctive aesthetic sensibilities. Boards Of Canada members Marcus Eoin and Mike Sandison, it should be noted, spent a stretch in Canada as children during the Filmboard’s heydey. All in all, then, Boards Of Canada is a perfect band handle: it perplexes, it offers a statement of intent, and it emanates from the murky depths of memory. Which just about sums up what makes the pair’s music quite so special.

BOARDS OF CANADA’S WORK WALLOWS IN THE PAST, BUT ALSO INTERROGATES IT, CRITIQUES IT.

Boards Of Canada remain one of the best-known and best-loved electronic acts of the last two decades. Out of all of Warp’s banner artists, only Aphex Twin and (perhaps) Squarepusher inspire the same sort of fevered admiration. These two childhood ‘friends’ (more on that later) fused New Age, hip-hop and rave into a strange new gumbo, situated at the interstice between the mystic and the metric. More surprising influences include agit-industrialists Test Dept, Jan Svankmajer and New Scientist, all of which bleed through into the tunes. Crucially, Boards Of Canada’s music is shot through with a powerful sense of wistfulness; in Sandison’s words, “When I was a foetus, I was nostalgic for when I was sperm”. Any Boards Of Canada record is a hodgepodge of eviscerated jingles, wayward radio signals, stentorian documentary voiceovers and consumerist detritus. Their work wallows in the past, but also interrogates it, critiques it.

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