When Bill and Ted return to the big screen next year for another most excellent adventure, we’ll surely be reminded of the lads’ important place in the universe, of how their fictional band Wyld Stallyns is the cornerstone of a future society.
Somewhere out in space, perhaps in another time, there’s another utopia built on the music of Boards of Canada.
Scottish brothers Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin are a mysterious pair. The BoC founders rarely talk with media, they don’t tour, they don’t often launch “official” music videos (though fans take care of that), and their output is anything but prolific. And yet, BoC are, in their minimal electronic space, quite peerless.
Stacked up, BoC’s music is an odyssey of ideas and trip-hop beats, of memories and spectres. Their works are often warm, sometimes nuclear. Always probing, pushing. And they're not for everyone.
Last year was the 20th anniversary of their seminal debut album Music Has the Right To Children. There was little fanfare, no shows, no reissues with special outtakes and unreleased cuts. No word on when new music would come.
The leftfield electronic duo’s last full-length release was 2013’s Tomorrow’s Harvest, an album that almost-remarkably cracked the U.K. top 10 (peaking at No. 7) as it provided nourishment to long-suffering BoC fans. Its predecessor, The Campfire Headphase, dropped way back in 2005 and an EP, Trans Canada Highway, arrived the following year. New BoC music is long overdue.
So it came as a welcome surprise when, over the weekend, the Scots contributed a new two-hour mix, Societas x Tape, in celebration of Warp Records’ 30th anniversary. It’s a set dribbling with psychedelia and flowing with tunes by Grace Jones, Devo, Severed Heads, Yellow Magic Orchestra and more. Rumor has it, the mix even contains as-yet unreleased BoC music.
Billboard fired off an email to Warp with a request for information on the next BoC release proper. No response, yet. Until the mystery unravels, check out these 10 essential Boards of Canada tracks.
The easiest entry point to Boards of Canada’s catalogue is "Roygbiv," lifted from their great debut Music Has the Right To Children. It’s a joyful, Sesame Street-on-acid tune which doesn’t get old.
When A Campfire Headphase lit up in 2005, BoC fans had a lot to mull over. The LP introduced guitars into its sonic framework, a good example of which can be heard in lead track “Dayvan Cowboy,” which was accompanied by the duo’s first official music video. The story behind Joe Kittinger's 102,800 foot “space jump,” footage of which appears in the clip, is worthy of your attention.
As chill as they come, "Macquarie Ridge" appears on the Japan release of The Campfire Headphase.
Another classic from The Campfire Headphase, "Peacock Tail" is a layered, meditational masterpiece with a fat kick and thunderclaps disguised as a snare. Tune in, and find your place, deep inside your mind.
"Music is Math"
Boards of Canada’s second album Geogaddi is a workshop of experiments. "Music is Math," with its blistering beats and haunting, ruined vocal, is an early eruption.
It has no beat, no vocals and it’s just 90 seconds in length, but "Olson" is as intelligent as Isaac Newton on a very brainy day. It just might be the finest piece in the BoC canon..
"Reach For the Dead"
Tomorrow’s Harvest was bleak and beautiful. A light that shines darkness. Its single "Reach For the Dead" was accompanied with a music video which captured a scorched, post-apocalyptic landscape. Watch for the image right at the death of a sun splitting in three. It’s a real trip.
"Everything You Do Is Balloon"
The closing track on the 1996 EP Hi Scores, "Everything You Do Is Balloon" is a beats-fueled journey with an ever-so-slightly-bent melody. Its popular fan-made music video, which recycles footage from a ‘60s bicycle safety movie, is the stuff of nightmares.
"Constants are Changing"
Another go-to from TheCampfire Headphase, "Constants are Changing" is a 100-second concept, melding familiar BoC sounds with guitars, a melancholy melody and lashings of delay. If Van Gogh’s "Starry Night" had a sound, it would go something like this.
On paper, "Aquarius" shouldn’t work. It’s all chunky bass, samples of giggling kids and swirling synths. But it does work, every single time.