I get it...I finally get it. It's no wonder that BOC's Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin (Sandison) have revelead they are brothers. It takes two people from the same genetic gene pool to make music THIS GOOD. After listening to their latest masterwork, The Campfire Headphase, I now understand what BOC's music is meant to portray. I believe that Boards' music is a virtual road map of the human soul. Each new album and release Boards puts out is a musical representation of a particular stage in human exisitence. The Campfire Headphase represents "adulthood". Follow me for an interesting ride.
Music Has The Right To Children in 1998 was BOC's seminal work. It was their first official LP. Through inference of the title, this album represented "childhood". Each song has a rustic, analog feel to it. The album is replete with children laughing, saying "I love you" (Color of the Fire), learning shapes (Triangles and Rhombuses) and counting with the teacher in elementary school (Aquarius). There are references to educational films and public television (One Very Important Thought). Even "Telephasic Workshop" is a play on words as compared to The Children's Television Workshop, who brought us childhood classics such as Sesame Street and The Electric Company. MHTRTC contains tons of samples from these two shows.
Music... is Boards' universally worshipped album because so many adult listeners discovered it in their late 20's and 30's, when their formerly optimisic youthful lives had become sad, corrupted and mired in work, bills and bad relationships. This album reminds us of the tender, innocent, happy childhood we lost yet is not too late to recapture.
This brings us to Geogaddi in 2002, BOC's second, most controversial, and the most polarized amongst their fans. The reason why is simple--Geogaddi represents "adolescence" and young adulthood, say between 13 and 28 or so, a good 15-year period. Geogaddi's music is intrusive, in your face and agressive, like a teenager enraged with hormones, confused and aroused by his newborn sexuality. The music is powerful, crisper, and braver than the previous album yet intentionally pretentious and insecure, reminiscent of a teen's false bravado in his/her attempts to lure a sexual partner. Titles like "Julie and Candy", "Beware the Friendly Stranger" implies sexual predation and curiosity. "Opening the Mouth" and "You Can Feel The Sky" refer to the intense feelings of losing one's virginity. Young people are now in high school or college, learing more advanced and complex subject matters, such as mathematics, music and formulas (Music is Math, The Smallest Weird Number, A is to B as B is to C, Dandelion). The childhood represented in MHTRTC is now disgusting to the adolescent know-it-all in Geogaddi. One can't wait to bid childhood "bye, bye, bye, byeeeeee..." as in Sunshine Recorder. In fact, you'd better "record" bits and pieces of your childhood "sunshine" or they will be gone forever. BOC did and that's why MHTRTC was so great in recording childhood sensations. Keep in mind, teenagers and college students feel they are at an age where they feel the world revolves around them. The very name "Geogaddi" means "to revolve around the world TWICE". Teens must be so vain, eh? Fans recommended to "play [Geogaddi] TWICE before listening". It is at this time in our lives that we may experiement with drugs or become entrenched with unsavory company, such as cults, as evidenced by so many references to subliminals, Satanists and Branch Dividians (The Devil is in the Details, 1969, etc.) "Gyroscope" takes the innocent number counting of "Aquarius" and subverts it into a perverse, schizophrenic parody of number-obession. BOC endured a lot criticism by fans, as they interpreted Geogaddi to have lost that "warm sound" and suffered a sophomore's jinx. Geogaddi gave so many listeners an awkward, angry experience, reminding them of unpleasant adolescent memories, triggering sensitive moments of dread, sexual shame and rebellion. These are the haters of Geogaddi. Others are reminded of young acheivement, sexual conquest and higher learning. These are the lovers of Geogaddi. I tend toward the middle, leaning toward the hating side. My life sucked between 12 and 30, especially in romance and finance. Geogaddi nails each angry, black, self-loathsome feeling I ever experienced with spades. I hate them for planting the mirror to my face, exposing my flaws to the world yet love them for doing so in order to learn to love and heal myself and thusly prepare me for the next ablum...The Campfire Headphase.
The Campfire Headphase represents solid adulthood--your 30's and 40's. Like the Sandison brothers, many people at this stage of life are married, and/or have children. They may have secure jobs and prefer a Netflix night rather than a wild night of clubbin' and sluttin'. Geogaddi's music was electric and virile, like the pompous high school football star. Headphase's music is acoustic, organic and mellow, like getting stoned by a campfire. The initials of this album is TCH, which could very well be an anagram of THC. The biggest obsevation about this album is its use of guitars (or clever guitar samples). Those who complain about the guitars (which are only noticable on a handful of tracks) do not understand that acoustics-a-la-Music70 were going to be a natural progression of Boards' music. To make a sequel to MHTRTC would have been a lazy, backwards decision. To create "Music Part 2" would have invalidated Geogaddi completely, reducing it as a self-indulgent mistake (some obtuse fans wouldn't mind this outcome). There was no way Mike and Marcus was going to allow that to happen. TCH had to be mellow in order to allow us to contemplate the harshness of the near-indigestible Geogaddi and to fully appreciate how beautiful, and necessary that album was to understand ourselves. Every time I listen to TCH, Geogaddi becomes even more special. You have to take the sweet and the harsh, as in Boards of Canada and as in life. You don't really understand that lesson until you are in your 30's. God bless you Boards for guiding me through that lesson. When I heard Peacock Tail, I understood everything...why I went through the type of life I've led so far, the smart decisions and foolish mistakes I've made in my life and why my childhood sounded like MHTRTC and why my teens and 20's felt like Geogaddi. Peacock Tail is the only Boards song other than Aquarius that made me cry on the first listen.
TCH is an album of crisp, digital music. It feels almost like BOC in high-def surround sound. The way the BOC-brothas equalize and alter their music envelops me and a warm sea glass cocoon. Every song feels like subliminal line noise is dancing through them, as if my headphones are too close to my wall and I can hear random radio singals through the electral outlet. My favorite tune as of this writing is Slow This Bird Down, not for its melody or message, but just for sheer technique. How is it possbile that a song transmutes itself into a scratchy, broken radio transmission? Constants and Changing uses the EQ to mess with your ears; parts are muffled, others are pronounced. Your ears are fighting to pick up something precise in the song, like an amorphous signal from outer space. Brilliant. This album celebrates the freedom, leisure and self-assuredness of adulthood (A Moment of Clarity, '84 Pontiac Dream) but also reminds us that this period of life still brings heartbreak and sadness. Farewell Fire is the one of the most heartwrenching and saddest pieces I have ever heard--a 21st Century version of Albonini's Adagio in G Minor for Strings and Organ. Eveytime I hear this piece I think of the only woman to ever break my heart twice and how the pain still manages to linger to this day (you know who you are, Michelle...) This song also has possibly the longest fade out in the history of man.
Guitars are nothing new with this album. BOC has been using analog instrumentation long before the Twoism days. I have a friend in Ireland who managed to get a hold a copy of two unreleased BOC demo cassettes and a copy of the almost-mythical Acid Memories from 1989. Yes, these tapes are authentic. No, you won't get a copy from me or online. This music is not even on any file-sharing programs and trust me, I have 'em all. You won't find them on the internet, period. Based on these unreleased recordings, these cats have had the guitar down cold for a long time. TCH is the perfection of organic experimentation. Chromakey Dreamcoat and Hey Saturday Sun are examples as such. Even the crunchy "squeaks" from the guitar strings are sampled to the point of being part of the beat sequence. The guitar riffs on Chromakey are so deconstructed, that they sound more like a Japanese shamisen rather than the former instrument. You can listen to this song forever and that's why Boards slams the brakes on this song at the end, snapping you out of a surreal hypnosis. It is already a fact that Boards have been influenced by psychedlic acts like The Incredible String Band. The Band's flutes and guitars have been sampled by Boards on Geogaddi and before.
Those who dismiss this work as inferior to MHTRTC have completely missed the point. Listen. Everyone, mark my lips...There will NEVER EVER be another album like MHTRTC! There I said it. Just like there will never be another Michael Jordan, Malcom X, Nikola Tesla or Jimi Hendrix, we will never see another BOC album like Music...so stop wishing for it. Everything Boards cranks out to the public is equally beautiful in thankfully different ways. Their sound is evolving at an exponential basis, drawing ideas and motifs from their previous works and transmuting them into newer, greater and more complex masterpieces. I'm not surprised that BOC needs months to work on one song...and years just to make one full length CD. That's how insanely layered their music is. I never trust any artist that jams out a CD of new material every year containing crap that fans want to hear. True artists make music for solely themselves. If he or she gets a couple of fans along the way, all the better. Artists are also idiosyncratically selfish because they are dissatisfied with the current paradigm of their genre's art. They naturally crave to create something that is self-authored, bringing the satisfaction of creating something intimate and beautiful. BOC are just hitting the 3rd gear on their supercharged Minimoogs. I predict based on their musical progression that there will be two more full albums before they call it quits forever. The next album will highlight middle-aged life and be released around 2008-2009 and their final album will face old age, death and the transition around 2012. The circle will be complete, or is it the "Hexagon"?
This is my longest review and I hope you survived it. If I bored you to tears and you hate my review, so be it; that is your right. If reading this made you a better Boards of Canada fan, then let's go "Happy Cycling" together. This is a great album and it will take me until the next album to fully understand it. We can no longer call Boards of Canada "electronic" artists. They are in a unique category with no equal, but with many wannabees. "Analog-Synthetic Musical Digitalization and Enhancement" is the closest 'genre' I can think of for Boards of Canada, a coy, brilliant duo that now belongs to no genre. 5 stars once again, Mike and Marcus. Don't stop making music for yourselves and thank you for another incredible journey in my headphones.