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Music / Boards of Canada

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Creating "the last sounds of a dying machine from The '70s that just got recently excavated" since The '80s.

Come out and live with a religious community in a beautiful place out in the country.

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.

David Firth loves them. Sean Booth is also a fan, as he signed them to his label Skam Records and had them open for a few Autechre shows.

You can now vote for your favourite Boards of Canada album HERE!


Pre-Warp releases:

  • 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.

Major Releases:


  • 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 (the song is also exactly 70 seconds long). 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.
    • By extension, 69 (despite its usual connotations) is another number which appears frequently in their song titles. "Sixtyniner," "1969" and "June 9th," which would be written in numbers as '6-9'.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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 .
  • Electronic Music: But of course.
  • Epic Rocking: While several of the songs on their main albums qualify, some of their other songs/remixes can get quite long.
    • "Seven Forty Seven," an unreleased song which appeared on Warp20 (Unheard), clocks in at 6:44.
    • The version of "Chinook" which appears on the "Aquarius" EP is just over 7 minutes long.
    • "XYZ," from their radio session with John Peel, is 8 minutes long.
    • Though they have never been heard publicly, some of the songs on their earliest albums could be quite long. "Tends Towards" from "Closes Vol. 1," was 8 minutes long, "Infinite Lines Of Colourful Sevens," from "Play By Numbers," was 9 minutes and 18 seconds long and "Line Two" and "Visual Drone 12," both from "Catalog 3," were 10 minutes and 13 minutes long, respectively.
  • 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.
  • Gratuitous Panning: Done with the synth lead in "Seven Forty Seven," which only serves to make the whole song more psychedelic.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Likewise, Tomorrow's Harvest tones down the band's trademark warbly synths for a much colder, darker palette akin to the soundtrack work of John Carpenter, John Harrison and Vangelis.
  • Non-Appearing 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.
  • Recurring Riff: Track 3 from "All Tomorrow's Parties" has appeared in several of their songs. Namely "Sixtyniner," "A is to B as B is to C" and in the music used in the "Quiet" commercial.note 
  • 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.
  • 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:
  • 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.