Decoding Boards Of Canada

Where next after their RSD mystery? Clash speculates…
boards of canada

Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin are notorious for exploiting the cavernous depths of the human imagination.

For over two decades the pair has encouraged us to fill in the gaps, providing the soundtrack to fans’ childlike speculation with the heavily organic, dream-state ambiance of their music and employing a selective and sporadic mentality towards interviews.

The pair’s recent return to the public’s eyes and – more pertinently – ears this Record Store Day has earned them attention aplenty.

Born and raised in regions of Scotland, and for a brief time early on in their childhood across the Atlantic in Canada, the brothers operated under the radar for eight years, distributing the now extremely sought after ‘Catalog 3’, ‘Play By Numbers’ and ‘Hooper Bay’ between friends and family.

In 1995 the pair released their first official EP under the name Boards Of Canada. ‘Twoism’, thanks to a limited-release run of roughly 100 copies, remained a holy grail during the brothers’ surge of popularity in the late–1990s. Owing to the rampant fanaticism that followed their debut full-length ‘Music Has The Right To Children’, ‘Twoism’ would later be reissued in 2002.

Like an uninvolved girlfriend stitched to an elasticated rope, arriving on your doorstep only to disappear into the mountains the following morning, this frustrating pattern of secrecy has continued.

Now, following a vague spike of excitement from half-baked confirmations of new material via the group’s Facebook page last year, the Boards Of Canada universe has undergone an interesting and characteristically fractured reanimation.

While the sunshine provided heightened expectations for the throngs of revellers attending this year’s Record Store Day, (as many as) six newly pressed 12”s of new material from the duo were distributed to undisclosed locations, awaiting discovery.

The first was picked up in New York, with another discovered at Rough Trade East in London soon afterwards.

A hangman-style string of underscores and dashes provide clues to a message hidden beneath the numerical puzzle. YouTube videos of older material have been tampered with to mirror the code found on the RSD vinyl and snippets of eerie soundscapes and numbers have been heard on well-known radio stations.

And then there was this Toonami 'ad'...

- - -

- - -

It’s ridiculously easy to get wrapped up in this promotional whirlwind, to feel Indiana Jones-like as one digs through web pages, expecting some kind of religious experience to take hold as the tapestry explaining what Boards Of Canada are up to finally unravels.

Sadly though, reality is not so cinematic. They’re musicians, who live an undoubtedly regular life, with families, hectic Monday mornings and Sky+. So with all the smoke and mirrors aside, what can we expect from a future Boards Of Canada album?

The state of music has proven itself to be Benjamin Button-like, with its appearance and development changing more rapidly as we delve further into the future. The sounds that surrounded their last release, ‘Trans Canada Highway’, seven years ago have long since slipped into obscurity. Music, especially electronic music, is almost totally unrecognisable today, and more hyperactive than ever.

So what remains is a watermark specific to now: Boards Of Canada cannot exist in peer-comparison or previous-wares context as easily as others may. It’s probable that Mike and Marcus have been as exposed as we have to passing trends and immovable pop stars, their taste in emerging artists as sharpened and aware as anyone else with an internet connection.

All these realities of context could result in an album manifesting a detachment to contemporary electronic music. Or, perhaps, they will welcome stylistic pinches from the variants of house and techno that have exploded in popularity over recent years.

Much like the selective perfectionism of Fugazi, Boards Of Canada have remained an isolated force of creativity, carving out a sound only traceable once other artists catch on and cause a scene, or movement of some kind.

The forthcoming new album is likely to mirror the ambient tones and analogue fuzziness present on their last two full-lengths. But perhaps this time it’ll feature an added twist of texture, one unheard so far in their discography.

Expect an altered approach, mirroring the forever-depleting habitat of two purists living in a world so deeply and absolutely plunged into technology.

Words: Charlie Wood

- - -

Get the best of Clash on your iPhone - download the app here

Have your say

Sign in or Register to leave comments
-