7. Boards of Canada – ‘Music Has the Right to Children’

Posted: March 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Album Review, Ambient, Ambient Techno, Downtempo | Tags: | No Comments »

Boards of Canada - Music Has the Right to Children

Boards of Canada * Music Has the Right to Children * 1998 * Warp Records

Boards of Canada are not from Canada. They’re from Scotland. That was the first curious thing about the chill music of brothers Michael and Marcus Sandison. Far more mysterious though was their heartbreaking sound, an ingenious blend of crunchy, warped beats, moody flecks of funk, and warm analog synths carving sublime snowdrifts of memory and thought.

Adding to the mystique, the Sandisons were reclusive pastoralists. Unlike their electronic brethren, such as Autechre — whose label Skam Records gave them their first real break — they were not urban technologists. They lived in the Scottish countryside in the Pentland Hills, home of their Hexagon Sun studio.

Their music evoked the wildlife documentary films of their youth. The kind once projected in classrooms or broadcast on public TV: Visions of Yellowstone, the Rockies, owls and grizzly bears, tundras and streams. In fact, Boards of Canada derived their name from the National Film Board of Canada, whose nature films and music scores of the ’70s were a major inspiration. But while their music channeled the outdoors, it also evoked the once mystic power of analog technologies, from the radio to the cathode-ray TV set, from the turntable to the tape recorder — the scratchy sound of vinyl records, the electronic music themes of broadcast networks, and old family Polaroids.

Pushing against the digital tide of the ’90s, Boards of Canada crafted the ultimate monument to that analog childhood with the groundbreaking album, Music Has the Right to Children. While it paid homage to old synthesizers, it placed their imaginings within a tangible landscape, a vaguely northern, Arctic frontier. Their name and artwork played to this notion while the music itself sounded like bright little campfires in an audio wilderness.

Short cinematic interludes like ‘Triangles & Rhombuses,’ ‘Kaini Industries’ and ‘Bocuma’ were flashes of perfection, aurora melodies billowing on a dream horizon. Child laughter buoyed chill-out anthem ‘Aquarius’ while ‘Telephasic Workshop’ brooded in a cloud of lightening. ‘Pete Standing Alone’ and ‘An Eagle In Your Mind’ captured the majestic solitude of nature’s hinterlands. And closer ‘Happy Cycling’ spun into sweet delirium like a slow tornado of birds.

But it was ‘ROYGBIV’ that crystallized their aesthetic best. It was a kaleidoscope of wonder, its rainbow melody rising up over a playground of broken beats and shimmering keys, a nostalgic crush of whimsy and melancholy that deepened and sustained its strains of fleeting innocence.

Other than Daft Punk, there may be no other electronica group that has influenced rockers more. Like those savvy Frenchmen, the Sandisons have openly drawn on the mainstream culture of the ’70s and ’80s. It has been these recognizable sign-posts that have brought outsiders into the electronica fold. And yet there is something incredibly quiet and eerie about Boards of Canada’s music. It has none of the cheer of alloyed pop.

But is it just a beautiful soundtrack for a camping trip of the soul? Or is there a grander gesture at play? If there is a larger message behind the album, its title and artwork suggest it’s a pluralistic one: Everyone has a stake in music.

In this sense, listening to Music Has the Right to Children is like inspecting your own childhood film strip against sunlight, or resurrecting old home movies with a refurbished projector. In each case, light is the only thing missing to transform the past into a new kind of now.

When watching Boards of Canada’s private psychedelic reel, that light is you. It’s your life that makes the picture. That’s your right. That’s your music.

1. Wildlife Analysis
2. An Eagle In Your Mind
3. The Color of the Fire
4. Telephasic Workshop
5. Triangles & Rhombuses
6. Sixtyten
7. Turquoise Hexagon Sun
8. Kaini Industries
9. Bocuma
11. Rue the Whirl
12. Aquarius
13. Olson
14. Pete Standing Alone
15. Smokes Quantity
16. Open the Light
17. One Very Important Thought
18. Happy Cycling

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