Tuesday 17 August 2021

Wandering the Boards

I had another one of those moments the other day where shuffle deals me a hand I wasn't expecting - hitting me with some Boards Of Canada. It wasn't like I haven't been listening to them or anything, it was more one of those cases where you only notice something missing after it returns. BoC are near and dear to me as you all may know, but the same can be said of all big Warp acts really. It has been a while since I've actually posted anything from them now I think about it, but I did do a runthrough of all their albums pre-Tomorrow's Harvest way back when as part of the Warped History series. At any rate, immediately afterwards I went on a quick dip back into some of my favourites from their works, and thanks to Warp's appearance on Bandcamp, I can now easily make it into a quick post as well - so let's go!

Eyvind Earle - Three Horses (1987)

We're actually going to start with a bit from Tomorrow's Harvest, their latest release not counting the big rebranded reissue of the Peel Session. I didn't actually review this one when it came out unlike some other Warp albums which is probably for the best in hindsight - it's certainly a grower (no pun intended). It's not my favourite of their albums, but don't take that as harsh criticism, it's still BoC doing what they do best. If you needed proof of that, look no further than the one-two punch of the album's opening Gemini, where the BoC boys lay out their 70's soundtrack influences bare - and how it leads into the second track Reach For The Dead. The whole album is a much... darker affair than usual, but not dark in the same way as Geogaddi was - it's a much more gritty, granular experience. Having said that, it is similar to Geogaddi in that the whole album is laden with foreboding atmospheres, but even so there are moments of beauty on there and Reach is one of them - one that I think stands alone even if the rest of the album leaves you wanting.

We'll be going backwards through their discography from here on out, I've chosen a couple from Geogaddi just to fill things out as my immediate first choice Over The Horizon Radar is lovely but fleeting. A trend that will continue with the rest of my picks actually, these small ambient interludes are some of my favourites they've done, and due to the bite size length I usually find myself saying 'just one more time' when they do come up. Over The Horizon Radar ushers in the final quarter of the album which is a pretty good summary of the whole thing honestly, it has the balance of ambient and slightly sinister trip hop thing that runs through the album down perfectly.

And speaking of, 1969 would be one of my go-tos for the flip side of the album - comforting yet unsettling. The beats are surprisingly heavy on all of Geogaddi, but 1969 seems to stick out a lot more than the rest to me at the moment - top it all off with some deliberately cult imagery (the sample here is "Although not a follower of David Koresh, she's a devoted Branch Davidian", just with Koresh's name reversed) and you have pretty much the album's MO in a nutshell. It's hypnotic but doesn't outstay it's welcome at a (nice) 4:20, the final quarter when the track title's namesake comes into play it's magical - I cannot get enough of that vocoded 1969, in the sunshine.

But if I had to pick just one single piece from BoC's vast discography that I could listen to forever, it would be this. I've brought it up a bunch of times before but I think it's been long enough that I can bring it up again - to me, Olson is the distilled essence of the Boards Of Canada sound, at least on the pure ambient front. Their work is very evocative of a moment in time, and they do a fantastic job of capturing that nostalgic, wistful feeling here - the analogue hisses and warbles are refined to perfection to capture that moment in time that influenced them so. It's maybe a little late to say it in the post, but if by chance you're new to BoC and like what you hear here, I would recommend starting with the album that Olson is from: Music Has The Right To Children and working your own way from there, forward or backward in their discography and you'll probably find even more that appeals.

And that'll do it for this slightly hastily written post, apologies for the widening gaps between them these days, things are getting busier IRL, I'm going to try and continue this short post trend just because it's easier to manage with the current climate and all. I have something else lined up that I haven't started yet so there may be another one out by the end of this week, but if not I'll drop by with it when I can. And as always - stay safe and enjoy the music.


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