Tuesday, 20 December 2011

A Very Warped History 14: 2006 (2 Of 4)

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As we wind down once again for the holiday season, I leave you with one final helping of downtempo goodness from my hometown buddy Nightmares On Wax. After a slight stumble with Mind Elevation, the Wax man returns to form with a fresher take on that slightly more mainstream sound in spectacular style that dare I say even rivals the original Smokers Delight in terms of out and out quality. Oh, and be sure to keep an eye out for those tunes used in [Adult Swim] bumps!



Take Passion for example. I've posted it before, but it deserves it again. NoW is pretty good at killing it with his intros, and this is no different. Any doubts I had after the slightly bland intro of Mind Elevation were quelled and lost in that hazy sea of sound.



As you can tell, In A Space Outta Sound is all about the Hippty Hop, and pulls it off much better than Mind Elevation did. It's all a far cry from the dub infusions present on Smokers Delight, but parts of it return here: notably the bass booms just after the intro, and the ever present reggae style organ.



The Sweetest then flows ever so gracefully into what is right up there as one of the best Nightmares tracks ever, right from the downright brilliant intro to the final fade, it's just downright essential. It achieves everything that Mr. Evelyn wanted to do with his sound. There is no need for any more words, just give it a listen and you will hear just why.



The Wax man goes full on hippty hop for the next venture, The influences of the 1970s soul scene on this track and NoW himself an are quite obvious, it is after all where most good n' funky samples come from. It's kept fairly simple but that doesn't hold it back in any way, in fact it feels a lot shorter than it actually is.



A return to the longer tracks now, with Damn providing some Arabian sounding strings to go with the tried and tested beat formula we're now accustomed to. It's a pretty good track as-is, but the introduction of the vocals at about 2:40 pushes it even further into proper quality territory.





I have heard this track far, far too many times. Yet it's still as good as ever, why that is I do not know, the sample, the organ, the slight hint of vinyl crackle amidst it all? it could be anything. But damn if it isn't satisfying as hell to listen to.



Remember Me + You from Smokers Delight? Remember how great it was despite being about 50 seconds long? Well, this album has it's very own little sample-based track like that. Presenting Chime Out: the tune that says so much with so little.



I was unsure of this track on first listen, it was good alright, but it was missing that crucial, essential groove that makes Nightmares On Wax. The 'lil guitar bit at 1:05 had my back, and that led into that amazing chiller drop at 1:15. I don't even know if you would call that bit a drop, but who cares it sounds a-mazing.



As the album draws to a close, we're treated to another candidate for the best of Nightmares On Wax. (and it even has an 808 in it!) The best description of it was from a review which simply said "This track is like if Trip-Hop came out of Florida instead of Bristol". And I'd have to agree with them wholeheartedly there, it's definitely brighter than the moody musings from the likes of say Portishead.



Playing us out is African Pirates, which I believe we posted a remix of once. It's very bouncy and light, much like the rest of the album. The bassline for this one is just perfect in setting the mood. It's nothing like an outro track at all, so like all NoW releases before it leaves you wanting more.



This is not the first time I've had to stop myself from posting a full album, but I really, REALLY wanted to this time. I massively recommend you check this out, it's so well produced and catchy that it at least deserves a listen from you. That an it's probably the easiest NoW album to get into with it's easy going vibes.

Out Of Sound,
-Claude Van Foxbat

Sunday, 11 December 2011

A Very Warped History 14: 2006 (1 Of 4)

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It's a Boards Of Canada blowout this week, this time with the Trans Canada Highway EP. It has a lot of similarities to The Campfire Headphase (Hell, the first track is Dayvan Cowboy which appeared on that album) but it is different enough to warrant it's own release. It's longer than the previous In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country EP which was only a 3 tracker, and even includes a remix! So without further ado, let's pick apart this EP.



Missing out Dayvan Cowboy, we get the first proper track. Left Side Drive, like the rest of the EP, leaves the acoustic driven direction of The Campfire Headphase behind in favour of the classic BoC formula with thundering beats with hints of synth sprinkled throughout, and even a few reversed parts in the background for good measure.



You may have noticed a distinct lack of the short ambient interludes that were such a treat on The Campfire Headphase, unlike albums previous. And that's where the EP comes in, it features a couple of them and they're a welcome return this ones a quasi-drone piece similar to Corsair from Geogaddi.





Skyliner is a bit of an interesting one, I saw a deconstruction of it not too long ago and pretty much the entire song is palindromic. Basically the melody and the synth sounds the same backwards as it does forwards, though I suppose it's not that strange when you consider BoC's track record with samples and whatnot. It seems to be uncommon as the only other palindromic melody I know of is in Sigur Ros's Starálfur.



And finally, the other ambient interlude: Uder The Coke Sign. I love when Boards do this kind of thing and this track is no exception, they cut it just short enough so that it doesn't get old, so that way it stays just as sweet on every single repeat listen. It'd be fitting to just end the EP right there, but...



Click for Huge

There's a little something on the end. A massive 9 minute remix of Dayvan Cowboy by a one Odd Nosdam. It's sort of the musical equivalent of watching a really old VHS tape, the whole thing is warped and barely sounds like what it used to, but it has that charming quality to it. The moment that airy intro gives way to the now menacing sounding guitars is amazing, and just like that they're gone again. The song doesn't start properly for about another minute and even then doesn't stick around long, giving in to another ambient bit. Overall it plays out like a more trip-hop version of Dayvan Cowboy, it's pretty great.



And finally, another first for Boards Of Canada, their very first official music video featuring footage of Joesph Kittinger legendary skydive from practically the edge of space. it's pretty much what you'd expect visually from a Boards tune, all washed out and retro like. Officially it was directed by a one Melissa Olson, though I suspect it was probably the Boards brothers themselves, considering the tracks "Melissa Juice" from Twoism and "Olson" from Music Has The Right To Chrildren it's too coincidental a name to be true.



...And I'm Gone,
-Claude Van Foxbat

Saturday, 10 December 2011

A Very Warped History 13: 2005 (2 Of 2)

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You may have noticed not much changes between each Boards Of Canada album, that's not necessarily a bad thing, their sound was interesting and they kept it fresh enough to stretch out. So what happens when the band themselves decide to change things up a bit? well, The Campfire Headphase has more of an acoustic slant and even though it's still got spatterings of their now trademark nostalgic analouge haze on it, the album as a whole just feels different perhaps... warmer I want to say, than anything else they've done before.



And it begins innocently enough, with a little ditty that sounds like something from an old TV test card from more than a few decades ago rather than the underlying menace of tracks such as Beware The Friendly Stranger from Geogaddi



And with no hint of hesitation we dive right in at the acoustic end, with the guitar here essentially taking the place of where a synth would before on their previous efforts, contributing to that whole warmer, looser atmosphere to the album while still sounding like Boards Of Canada.



Aside from the intro, the next track takes a different approach to the incorporation of acoustics, like Chromakey Dreamcoat the guitar forms a recurring melody, but it's sandwiched between sets of BoC's usual dreamy electronics affair, with a tiny ambient piece on the end for good measure.





Now, up until this point I was thinking the album's pretty good, but it needs something to push it over the edge, something with the instant classic vibes that tracks like Roygbiv gave off in the past. I wasn't disappointed. From the absolutely sublime first chords until the very end, I was hanging on every note.



And much like the Dawn Chorus/Over The Horizon Radar combo from Geogaddi, it's followed up with another outstanding track. Dayvan Cowboy is one of BoC's most famous songs and it's not hard to see why. The track is essentially in two parts, with the woozy intro breaking off about halfway through to give way to an amazing moment at about 2:05. When you hear it you will understand why it's one of their most famous tunes. It's just brilliant through and through.



The acoustics take a well deserved backseat for now, and instead we're treated to one of the electronic based tunes that made them famous in the first place. They're still as good at it as ever, with the usual mix of emotion and atmosphere making for the quintessential Boards Of Canada experience.



It's not long before the guitars make a comeback and we're back in the now familiar valley of strings however. I've posted this track before, for a post that was just mix of summery tunes. That's pretty much it, like Dawn Chorus before it, it's practically made to watch the sun rise to, Its even in the title of both of them.





This track has always stood out as a bit strange to me, not only does it mark the end of any more acoustic elements, but it just sounds out of place considering the more upbeat nature the album, as it sounds like the more sinister ambient pieces from Geogaddi that's not to say it isn't still quality though. If Hey Saturday Sun was made to watch the sun rise to, this is for those hot and humid summer nights where you can't sleep.



And that leads us to the winding down period of the album, as always, A few ambient pieces to guide you through the last few minutes. This one's always been a favourite from just the intro alone, it's a short one, but it feels like it lasts forever. In a good way though.



Farewell Fire holds a unique niche in the world of BoC ambient pieces, it's got the usual soft pads but this time it's entirely un-sequenced, just recorded as it was played. This leads to some interesting and subtle differences throughout in regards to the note structure. Also of note is that the track almost completely fades away at about the 4:00 mark but it remains just barely audible for the remainder of the song. I have no idea why they did it but it sure does make for an interesting listen (and a bit of a fright when it ends and you have it on shuffle + full volume).



That's meant to be the last track, but just like with Geogaddi I'm gonna throw in the Japanese bonus track as well, it doesn't quite fit after the sparse and spaced out Farewell Fire. Regardless, the track itself is quite interesting and sounds quite a bit like some of the stuff that would be on the EP after this, the Trans Canada Highway EP which we'll see in the very next entry.



Boards Of Canada have yet to do an album since, there's been rumours on and off for the past couple of years that they're releasing a boatload of old unreleased material like the infamous 'Old Tunes' tapes in a box set (or BoCset, if you will), but nothing's come of it yet. Mind you if you listen to Boards Of Canada you kinda get used to waiting a long time between releases, because it's probably going to be more than worth it in the end.

1986 Summer Fire,
- Claude Van Foxbat