Boards Of Canada
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

Boc Maxima , 6.5/10
Music Has The Right To Children , 6.5/10
Geogaddi , 7/10
The Campfire Headphase (2005), 6/10
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When they formed in the mid 1980s, Boards Of Canada were originally a commune of Scottish artists and musicians, but they quickly thinned down to a trio and then eventually to the duo of electronic musicians Michael Sanderson and Marcus Eoin. They released four cassettes between 1987 and 1993. Catalogue 3 (Music70, 1987 - Music70, 1997) has three lengthy tracks of rather uneventful ambient electronica (Line Two, Breach Tones, Visual Drone 12) and two shorter tracks. Their mellow, disjointed electronica was not particularly revolutionary. Acid Memories (Music70, 1989) is even less imposing, as are the 17 short pieces of Closes Volume 1 (Music70, 1993 - Music70, 1997), but Play By Numbers (Music 70, 1994), with the 9-minute Infinite Lines Of Colourful Sevens, showcased a more creative approach.

The EP Hooper Bay (MUsic 70, 1994), whose extended compositions are Seward Leaf, Noatak and Point Hope, heralded their mature phase, which yielded the 20 ambient tracks of the album Boc Maxima (MUsic 70, 1995), particularly the melancholy Everything You Do Is A Balloon and their early masterpiece Turquoise Hexagon Sun.

After the EP Twoism (Music 70, 1996 - Warp, 2002), the best tracks of the early years were reprised on Hi Scores (Skam, 1996) and revealed the duo to a broader audience. More doors were opened in 1998 by a fantastic single that coupled Telephasic Workshop (a mechanical ballet and vocal barbeque), and Roygbiv (a catchy lullaby that could have been on Tonto's Expanding Head Band's first album).

The problem with their first full-length album, Music Has The Right To Children (Warp, 1998), is that it is too obviously inspired by their mentors Autechre.
Theirs is mainly a science of cyclical drones and syncopated beats (An Eagle in your Mind, Sixtyten, Rue the Whirl), that tends to get trapped in its own premises. The notable exception within this paradigm is Aquarius, which sounds like a bridge between new-age and disco-music. The musicians successfully push the boundaries of that paradigm with the extra-galactic lounge music of Turquoise Hexagon Sun, the and the eight-minute Broadway-tinged fantasia Happy Cycling.
Pete Standing Alone tries in vain to re-enact the magic of Telephasic Workshop.
The album is virtually an anthology of their early days, as half of the material had been previously released.

The EP In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country (Warp, 2000), that contains two gems, In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country and Kid For Today, introduced a gentler pace that was retained for the 23 tracks of Geogaddi (Warp, 2002). Rather than breaking new ground, this disc (a triple LP box-set on vinyl) consolidates and refines the ideas of the debut: a sound that straddles the border between ambient, new age, psychedelia, glitch, hip-hop, and that concocts soothing, mellow, sugary atmospheres, albeit with a neurotic twist. The only differences are abundant vocal samples (especially in the musique concrete of The Devil Is in the Details) and a ubiquitous, background radiation of aimless drones (You Could Feel the Sky is scored for cosmic drones and found noises).
The best results are probably achieved in the tracks that employ a stronger rhythm and a more varied dynamics: the melancholy middle-eastern prayer-like wail of Music is Math (that relies on a loud syncopated beat and a static background drone, but is swallowed by sidereal winds), the syncopated cacophonous carillon of Julie and Candy, the six-minute strained, elongated and warped ambience of Sunshine Recorder, the fluttering cubist lullaby 1969, and the almost tribal The Beach at Redpoint. Melody is never an issue: Dawn Chorus lives on the brink of an epic melody that never materializes. Its incipit gets mauled, distorted, twisted and turned upside down.
The main tracks are separated by brief interludes of sonic debris (notably the out-of-tune piano sonata In the Annexe and the electronic poem A is to B as B is to C).
On the downside, the musicians tend to employ a technique of undulating mechanical patterns and voice collages (best represented by Gyroscope and, again, Sunshine Recorder) that, after a while, gets predictable. The seven-minute fantasia Alpha and Omega harks back to the electronic pop novelties of the 1980s, despite a more intricate rhythmic pattern.
This time the breadth and depth of the project left no doubt that Boards Of Canada were among the most adventurous electronic musicians of their generation.

The Campfire Headphase (Warp, 2005) is a much simpler work, a throwback to Boards of Canada's early music. The average tone of the songs is gently poignant: '84 Pontiac Dream, Tears From the Compound, Oscar See Through Red Eye, Peacock Tail unfold like deeply-felt sensations that are reluctant to materialize. The folkish, guitar-based Chromakey Dreamcoat and Satellite Anthem Icarus are the main distractions from this zen-like program. Only the eerie six-minute Slow This Bird Down and the psychedelic nirvana of Dayvan Cowboy push the album to another dimension, and probably a more interesting dimension, but just not one that the duo can attain frequently.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Franco Forni)

Quando si formarono, nella meta' degli anni 80, i Boards Of Canada consistevano in una comune di artisti e musicisti scozzesi, ma presto si ridussero a un trio e infine a un duo di musicisti elettronici: Michael Sanderson e Marcus Eoin. Tra il 1987 e il 1993 realizzarono quattro cassette. Catalogue 3 (Music70, 1987 - Music70, 1997) consiste in tre lunghi brani di ambient elettronica nei quali non accade praticamente nulla (Line Two, Breach Tones, Visual Drone 12) e due pezzi piu' brevi. La loro elettronica, mite e disarticolata, non era particolarmente rivoluzionaria. Acid Memories (Music70, 1989) e' ancor meno notevole, cosi' come i 17 brevi brani di Closes Volume 1 (Music70, 1993 - Music70, 1997), ma Play By Numbers (Music 70, 1994), con i nove minuti di Infinite Lines Of Colourful Sevens, denotava un approccio piu' creativo.

L' EP Hooper Bay (MUsic 70, 1994), le cui composizioni estese sono Seward Leaf, Noatak e Point Hope, preannunciava il loro momento migliore, che avrebbe portato le 20 tracce ambient dell'album Boc Maxima (MUsic 70, 1995), e in particolare la malinconica Everything You Do Is A Balloon e il loro primo capolavoro Turquoise Hexagon Sun.

Dopo l' EP Twoism (Music 70, 1996 - Warp, 2002), i brani migliori dei primi anni della loro carriera furono ripresentati su Hi Scores (Skam, 1996) che introdusse il duo ad un pubblico più ampio. Un altro passo in avanti fu fatto nel 1998 grazie ad un fantastico singolo che accoppiò Telephasic Workshop (un balletto meccanico e barbecue vocale), e Roygbiv (una ninnananna orecchiabile che avrebbe potuto essere nel primo album della Tonto's Expanding Head Band).

Il punto debole del loro primo album, Music Has The Right To Children (Warp, 1998), è che l'influenza dei loro mentori Autechre è fin troppo evidente. La loro è principalmente una scienza di suoni ciclici e battiti sincopati (An Eagle in your Mind, Sixtyten, Rue the Whirl) che tende a restare intrappolata nelle sue stesse premesse. L'eccezione degna di nota all'interno di questo paradigma è Aquarius, che stende un ponte immaginario tra la new-age e la disco-music. I confini di tale schema vengono invece allargati con successo nella lounge-music spaziale di Turquoise Hexagon Sun, e negli otto minuti di Happy Cycling, fantasia di sapore broadwayano. Pete Standing Alone tenta invano di ricreare la magia di Telephasic Workshop. L'album è virtualmente un'antologia del loro primo periodo, poiche' meta' del materiale era gia' stato pubblicato.

L' EP In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country (Warp, 2000) introduce un'andatura mite che sarà protagonista nei 23 brani di Geogaddi (Warp, 2002). Anziche' aprire nuovi orizzonti quest'album (che, in vinile, si presenta come un box triplo) consolida l'idea del debutto: un suono che si tiene in bilico tra ambient, new-age, glitch e hip-hop, e che mescola atmosfere dolci, miti e rilassanti (Alpha and Omega, Dawn Chorus), sebbene lo faccia con un piglio leggermente nevrotico. Le sole differenze consistono nelle abbondanti parti vocali campionate (1969, e specialmente nella musique concrete di The Devil Is in the Details) e in una onnipresente radiazione di fondo di suoni sconclusionati (You Could Feel the Sky praticamente è fatta solo di interferenze cosmiche). Il risultato migliore viene raggiunto probabilmente nei brani che impiegano un ritmo più marcato e dinamiche più varie: il malinconico pastiche medio-orientale di Music is Math (che si regge su di un battito sincopato e su un sottofondo costante che vengono inghiottiti da una sorta di vento siderale) e la ciclica e impressionistica The Beach at Redpoint. Le tracce principali sono separate da brevi intermezzi di frammenti sonori (specialmente la sonata per piano scordato In the Annexe e il poema elettronico A is to B as B is to C). Il problema è che il duo tende ad abusare di una tecnica di schemi meccanici fluttuanti e collage vocali (Gyroscope, Sunshine Recorder) che dopo un po' diventa ripetitiva e noiosa (Julie and Candy).

(Tradotto da Gabriella Gentile, gabestardust@libero.it)

The Campfire Headphase (Warp, 2005) è un lavoro molto più semplice, un ritorno alla prima produzione dei Board’s of Canada. Il tono medio delle canzoni è delicatamente pungente:’84 Pontiac Dream, Tears From the Compound, Oscar See Through Red Eye, Peacock Tail si dispiegano come sensazioni profonde restie a prendere corpo. Chromakery Dreamcoat e Satellite Anthem Icarus, brani con una base di chitarra tendente al folk, sono le principali deviazioni da questo lavoro di impronta zen. A spingere l’album in un’altra dimensione, forse molto più interessante ma non semplicemente l’unica che il duo può raggiungere, sono solo Slow This Bird Down, traccia misteriosa da sei minuti e il nirvana psichedelico di Dayvan Cowboy.

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