Boards of Canada (BoC for short) are an electronic music duo formed of Scottish brothersnote Mike Sandison and Marcus Eoin, known for their psychedelic, trippy style of downtempo-type music as well as the unique pastoral aesthetic that helped differentiate them from the more synthetic contemporaries of their time.
Their music often uses a combination of electronic and traditional instrumentation, heavy analogue sound manipulation and processing, trip hop-influenced beats, and frequent sampling, usually taken from field recordings and old seventies media. (Their name is actually a nod to such media through the documentaries produced by the National Film Board of Canada, which they were heavily influenced by as their family moved to Canada during their childhood.)
While the mood evoked by BoC's music is usually sunny, optimistic, soothing, and vaguely nostalgic, the brothers have been known to dip into darker territories well every now and then, especially on Geogaddi and Tomorrow's Harvest.
BoC has existed since 1986, when Marcus joined Mike's band, but ever since 1989 the band has consisted solely of the Sandison brothers. Their early songs were released through self-financed cassette releases on their Music70 label, but since 1998, their albums have appeared through Warp Records.
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- 1987 - Catalog 3
- 1989 - Acid Memories
- 1992 - Closes Vol. 1
- 1994 - Play By Numbers
- 1994 - Hooper Bay
- 1995 - Twoism (re-released in 2002)
- 1995(?) - Random 35 Tracks Tape
- 1996 - Boc Maxima
- 1996 - Old Tunes Vol. 1
- 1996 - Old Tunes Vol. 2
The first five have more or less only been heard by the band and their friends; the last four were never released but all tracks are easily found on the Internet. Twoism is the only one that was officially released, though several Boc Maxima tracks made it onto Music Has The Right To Children.
- 1996 - Hi Scores EP
- 1998 - Music Has the Right to Children
- 1998 - Aquarius EP
- 1999 - Peel Session
- 2000 - In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country EP
- 2002 - Geogaddi
- 2005 - The Campfire Headphase
- 2006 - Trans Canada Highway EP
- 2013 - Tomorrow's Harvest
- An Aesop: "One Very Important Thought."
- Arc Number: 70. "Sixtyten" is based on how "70" is said in French. Geogaddi features a song called "The Smallest Weird Number," which happens to be 70. Before being signed to Warp, they were on their own independent label called Music70, which is still co-credited as the label on BOC albums.
- Author Appeal: Mike and Marcus are very interested in subliminal messaging, numbers, and cults. Expect references to these, especially on Geogaddi.
- The Blank: The cover of Music Has The Right To Children shows a faceless family, and the persons on the covers of Geogaddi and The Campfire Headphase similarly have their facial features obscured or outright blanked out (it's difficult to tell, since, unlike the clearer image of Children, those two album covers have the persons standing at angles that already obscure their face, and are also subjected to heavy visual distortion and filtering).
- Breather Episode: The Campfire Headphase is a joyful, happy little album sandwiched between the nightmarish Geogaddi and the eerie Tomorrow's Harvest.
- Call-Back: "Sunshine Recorder" features a child chanting the names of two previous Boards of Canada songs ("An Eagle in Your Mind" and "In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country").
- Children Are Innocent: A recurring theme often either played straight or averted.
- Daylight Horror: Geogaddi feels like this, due to the use of bright, happy synths and samples contrasted with Subliminal Seduction, distorted vocals, and references to cults.
- Darker and Edgier: Geogaddi is considered this, with Tomorrow's Harvest even more so.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Lots of this in their leaked albums A Few Old Tunes and Old Tunes Vol. 2. Many of the songs sound nothing at all like what we now know as Boards of Canada, with tracks that sound more like Vaporwave note .
- Easter Egg: "Farewell Fire" seems to gradually fade out and end The Campfire Headphase with 4 minutes of silence. Turning up the volume at this point reveals the song just keeps going at barely audible volume.
- Electronic Music
- The End of the World as We Know It: Supposedly what "Tomorrow's Harvest" is about.
- Fading into the Next Song: "Wildlife Analysis" into "An Eagle In Your Mind".
- "Bocuma" into "Roygbiv".
- "The Beach at Redpoint" into "Opening the Mouth".
- "The Devil is in the Details" into "A is to B as B is to C" into "Over the Horizon Radar".
- "Ready Lets Go" into "Music is Math".
- Ghibli Hills: Boards of Canada is arguably the aural equivalent of this. When they're not being terrifying, that is.
- Homage: While not an explicit homage, "White Cyclosa" is highly reminiscent of John Harrison's score for Day of the Dead.
- Last Note Nightmare: Inverted in their remix of Slag Boom Van Loon's "Poppy Seed", beginning with a dark and ominous synth and progressing into a more mellow composition.
- Long Title: Their debut album Music Has The Right to Children and the EP In a Beautiful Place Out in The Country.
- Miniscule Rocking: All Boards of Canada albums feature at least a few shorter "snippet" songs, usually in the one minute range, that serve as quick explorations of short themes, Breather Episodes or linking between longer songs. These tend to be just as acclaimed as their "regular" songs.
- New Sound Album: The Campfire Headphase shifted Boards of Canada's sound into a more guitar-driven, pastoral direction, mainly to avoid pigeonholing. Fans and critics are divided on whether or not this is for the better.
- Nonappearing Title: Few of their albums or EPs feature the album title in a song, In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country, Twoism, and Boc Maxima being exceptions.
- Non-Indicative Name: They are from Scotland, not Canada. However, they did move to Canada at a young age and spent much of their childhood there.
- Number of the Beast: Geogaddi's last track "Magic Window" is 1:46 minutes of silence, making the final album length add up to 66:06. Word of God claims that a silent track was always intended to be at the end of the album, but the length was a suggestion from Warp Records president Steve Beckett For the Lulz, to troll the stupid listeners who were scared off by their reversing and sample manipulation. This joke isn't present on the Japanese version of the album, whose bonus track "From One Source All Things Depend" pushes the length to 68:14; or the vinyl release, which has a blank Side F with an image of a nuclear family to represent Magic Window.
- Refrain from Assuming: "Sunshine Recorder" contains the Looped Lyrics "an eagle in your mind... a beautiful place." The band seems to have been deliberately trolling here, because this makes the song very easy to confuse with the previous BOC songs "An Eagle in Your Mind" and "In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country".
- Sampling: Heavy use of this, especially from field recordings, movies, Sesame Street (yes, really), National Film Board of Canada documentaries, Numbers Stations (especially on Geogaddi) and lots and lots of children's voices, as well as more "normal" sampling of other songs ("Aquarius", for instance, is driven by a sample from the Hair soundtrack). Children's voices were deliberately removed from Headphase, with Marcus explaining that it was meant to avoid being pigeonholed:We always have people putting fakes on the Internet before a new record is released, and the fakes are always really electronic with little kids' voices and things like that.
- "One Very Important Thought" samples the ending of the 1982 adult film A Brief Affair on the Boc Maxima version. For Music Has the Right to Children, the sample was slightly re-recorded, replacing "would stop you from viewing an adult film" with "would stop you from listening to Boards of Canada."
- They themselves were sampled twice by Solange Knowles on her tracks "Left Side Drive" and "This Bird".
- Shout-Out: The group name is a reference to the National Film Board of Canada. Their titles and samples can be pretty heavy on this as well:
- "Turquoise Hexagon Sun" and "Orange Hexagon Sun" reference the Hexagon Sun artistic collective, which supposedly includes the band, Iain Campbell, Simon Goderich, Mark Garrett, Rachel Stewart, Alan Mackenzie, and Andrew Wilson. The band also use "Hexagon Sun" as the name of their recording studio.
- The Branch Davidian cult gets referenced in "Amo Bishop Roden" (she was married to George Roden, who was a rival to David Koresh) and "In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country" (whose title and main vocal sample is apparently cribbed from a description of their compound in Waco used by Roden to advertise the cult; the EP's cover also contains a small image of Koresh hidden underneath the CD tray) and "1969" (the vocoded sample "Although not a follower of hseroK divaD, she's a devoted Branch Davidian" is also a reference to Roden).
- "Telephasic Workshop", among other things, is suggested by the BoCpages fansite to be a reference to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, best known for its contributions to Doctor Who.
- "Kaini Industries" is a misspelling of Kainai Industries, a Canadian company set up in July 1971 (the month Marcus was born) to provide employment for a Kainai (Blood Nation) reserve.
- "Roygbiv" is a famous mnemonic used to remember the order of colours in a rainbow.
- "Aquarius" is named that because its primary sample comes from "Aquarius" by Galt MacDermot, from the Hair soundtrack (specifically, the 1979 soundtrack). This is a bit more noticeable on the Aquarius EP version (pay attention for the slap bass riff), as the Music Has the Right to Children version runs the sample through some heavier EQ'ing and processing. The song also uses samples from vintage Sesame Street episodes (the man saying "orange", kids laughing and saying "yeah, that's right").
- "Olson" and "Smokes Quantity" are references to the band's friends Melissa Olson (who directed the "Dayvan Cowboy" video) and an unnamed friend who was nicknamed "Smokes Quantity."
- "Pete Standing Alone" is a reference to Pete Standing Alone, a First Nation Canadian who appeared in seven National Film Board of Canada documentaries about the Kainai nation, including Circle of the Sun.
- Geogaddi's title is usually considered to be a Portmanteau of "Geo-" (Greek for "earth") and "Gaddi", the name of a pacifist, nomadic Hindu tribe from Himachal Pradesh in northwestern India. Its references lean more towards religious symbolism and mathematics ("A Is To B As B Is To C", "The Smallest Weird Number", "Music Is Math.")
- The title of Tomorrow's Harvest is often suspected to be a reference to Deadly Harvest, an obscure 1977 Canadian film starring a young Kim Cattrall about a catastrophic climate change that results in widespread crop failures across North America. This is seemingly reflected further by many of the song titles on the album, such as "Cold Earth", "Sick Times", and "New Seeds".
- Siamese Twin Songs: Lots, due to Boards of Canada albums often being very conceptual and designed to be played in a certain order: "In the Annexe"/"Julie and Candy", "Energy Warning"/"The Beach at Redpoint", and "The Devil is in the Details"/"A is to B as B is to C/"Over the Horizon Radar".
- Singer Namedrop: "Telephasic Workshop" has a sneaky reference to the band's name, through a vocal sample at 4:39 and 5:17 which says "bordering Canada."
- Subliminal Seduction: All of their albums employ heavy use of reversing, which sometimes has landed them in hot water. Notably, some of their shorter songs like "Dandelion" and "Over the Horizon Radar" are made almost entirely of this. note
- Most tracks on Geogaddi either "work" equally well reversed, or were clearly written to be reversed in the first place (like "Dandelion" and "I Saw Drones"). "Corsair" appears to have been reversed *and* slowed down.
- The other albums are not as reverse-friendly, but reversed vocal samples are common. In addition, at least three songs ("Rue the Whirl", "Satellite Anthem Icarus", and "New Seeds") have a bonus mini-song jammed at the end of the track and reversed.
- Teen Genius: Considering the fact that Mike was born in 1971 and Marcus in 1973, they technically started Boards of Canada when they were still teenagers, like their Warp labelmate Aphex Twin. (And much like Aphex, it took them a while to find their trademark style.)
- Title Track: "In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country", "Twoism", and "Boc Maxima".
- Wild Mass Guessing:
- Possibly one of the most guessed-about bands ever, especially since they love using cryptic song titles, obscure and distorted samples, and references to numbers and cults.
- Heck, check out this fansite's page on Geogaddi, and especially the page on "You Could Feel The Sky"'s Subliminal Seduction Satanic themes. Some people have too much time on their hands...
- Word Salad Title: They have a penchant for these.
- Zeerust: Boards of Canada was directly influenced by the National Film Board of Canada's old 1970s music, so this is no surprise.