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Boards of Canada

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The Boards, in all their mysterious glory

Boards of Canada are an elusive Electronic IDM/Downtempo/Ambient/drone duo, comprised of brothers Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin, from Scotland (confusing, I know). They are considered by many to be one of the best electronic acts out there, with MHTRTC and Geogaddi being particular favourites. Their sound is best characterised by their favouring of analogue synths and samples over digital, which is used to create a more grainy and nostalgically dated sound.

As of writing this, all albums mentioned (and more) can be downloaded here.

Discography overviewEdit

Lost albums (1987 - 1996) Edit

Boards of Canada used to self-distribute EPs exploring a variety of genres. Only one of these EPs (Twoism; read below) has seen commercial release, and compilations Boc Maxima, Random 35 Tracks Tape and the Old Tunes series have supposedly been leaked online, though their legitimacy, though likely, has never been confirmed and is sometimes questioned.

The unreleased EPs are Catalog 3 (1987), Acid Memories (1989, may not actually exist), Closes Vol. 1 (1992), Play by Numbers (1994), and Hooper Bay (1994). The most notable is Play by Numbers, of which an excerpt was posted on a now-defunct BoC fansite. The excerpt, which was supposedly of the song Wouldn't You Like to Be Free? boasted a My Bloody Valentine influence and usage of guitars. Another notable EP is Hooper Bay, of which an excerpt was posted on the same fansite. The excerpt, which was supposedly of the song Circle, boasted an unnerving dark ambient sound, foreshadowing the musical themes of Geogaddi.

BoC's own Twoism and Aphex Twin's Caustic Window LP, were, at one point, called the "holy grail of IDM". Today, if an album were to take that title, it would easily be BoC's Play by Numbers or Hooper Bay.

Twoism (1995, EP) Edit

Genre: IDM, ambient techno, dream pop

Twoism is a fantastically varied listen, and is their earliest EP which eventually saw public release. It features a relaxed, dreamy sound on tracks like "Sixtyniner" and simultaneously, tracks like "Basefree" feature an aggressive, tense and somewhat unnerving sound. Initially, it was unavailable for purchase, given out in limited quantities to close friends and family in the same fashion as their other early EPs. It was a highly sought-after item, often being sold for over 1000 USD, and called the "holy grail of IDM" before it was reissued in 2002. Rumors suggest that it was the record which drew the attention of Skam Records, BoC's former record label.

Pitchfork: 7.0/10

Boc Maxima (1996)Edit

Genre: IDM, ambient techno

One of their earlier limited release LPs. Has some exclusive tracks, but most of the good ones can be found in MHTRTC or other early EPs, so it's pretty skippable.

Piero Scaruffi: 6.5/10

Music Has the Right to Children (1998)Edit

Genre: IDM, ambient techno

Their first widely released studio album and, depending on who you talk to, one of the best electronic albums ever made. Most of the good tracks from Boc Maxima, such as "Roygbiv" and "Turquoise Hexagon Sun" can be found on here, as well as some fantastic exclusives, such as "Rue the Whirl" and "An Eagle in Your Mind." Also their most accessible album, so this is the place to start. Considered a must have for any electronic fan.

Pitchfork: 10/10 (Reissue)

Piero Scaruffi: 6.5/10

In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country (2000, EP) Edit

Genre: IDM, ambient techno

A good mix of the childlike innocence in MHTRTC and the darkness in Geogaddi. If you wanted that, good, here it is!

Pitchfork: 8.9/10

Geogaddi (2002)Edit

Genre: IDM, dark ambient, drone

Their second widely released studio album, and probably most favoured. Its overall sound is less childlike and widely considered to be more sinister, with its constant references to kvlts (particularly the Branch Davidians) and heavy use of distorted and grainy samples. Aside from that, the sound is still very similar to MHTRTC, so if you liked that, you'll probably like this. Also, a must for electronic/ambient music, so give it a listen.

Pitchfork: 8.6/10

Piero Scaruffi: 7/10

The Campfire Headphase (2005)Edit

Genre: Downtempo, IDM

Supposedly a concept album, which consists of more acoustic samplings, mostly of electric guitar pickings. It sounds kind of like being in the desert on acid (which is apparently what it's about). Some good tracks include "Chromakey Dreamcoat" and "Dayvan Cowboy." Not as good as the other two, but a great album nonetheless, and you'll definitely enjoy it if Geogaddi was 3 kvlt 5 u.

Pitchfork: 7.6/10

Piero Scaruffi: 5.5/10

Trans Canada Highway (2006) Edit

Genre: Ambient, downtempo

Came almost directly after The Campfire Headphase, so if you liked the acoustic sampling, you'll probably enjoy this one.

Pitchfork: 6.0/10

Tomorrow's Harvest (2013)Edit

Genre: IDM, ambient, synth pop

Harkening back to the days of MHTRTC and Geogaddi, this album was brought to the public after a cryptic advertising campaign and an eight year waiting period. Their grainy, harsh, dry synths and samples on some songs make you feel as if you're watching a post-apocalyptic John Carpenter movie on VHS, while other songs feature a more conventional sound reminiscent of EDM. Has some great tracks like "Reach for the Dead" and "Nothing is Real." Still not their best, but you'll like it if you enjoyed their other stuff.

Pitchfork: 8.3/10 (Best New Music)

Piero Scaruffi: 4.5/10

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