Electronic music has come a long way since the cold rhythms of early pioneers like Kraftwerk or Can. Like other forms of music, electronica it has split off into sub genres that embrace experimental, lounge and street styles. One of my favorite electronic bands manages to wrap many of these influences together while still sounding warm and familiar.
Despite the name, Boards of Canada (or BOC) is a Scottish duo consisting of two Edinburgh based brothers. They mix subtle nostalgia in the form of odd samples with seemingly scruffy low-fi production techniques. By scraping together samples from public service announcements, commercials and children at play, BOC creates oddly warm electronic music on their first widely distributed LP Music Has the Right to Children.
Despite a cover featuring a faceless family and a creepy horror film title, capturing the fuzziness and wonder of childhood was one of BOC’s goals in the making of this album. Nostalgia, in all its remixed and down sampled forms was (and sometimes still is) a key component in the music of BOC.
Unlike similar sounding work from early Aphex Twin, the nostalgia factor adds an organic element that makes this release stand out in the otherwise cold world of the digital realm. The songs were often simple and layered with progressively more complicated melodies over top a consistent beat.
I always loved the odd album covers that suggested something vaguely ‘70s or ‘80s looking. That theme carried over to the choice of sound blips from commercials and old public service announcements. These clips were sometimes the bridge connecting songs in much the way samples were used in some De La Soul or Tribe Called Quest recordings.
Speaking of hip hop, much of the rhythms generated by BOC have a break beat like quality that makes their music popular with hip-hop and dance music audiences alike.
While not the band’s first recording, Music His The Right To Children bridged electronica, street and mass commercial culture to widespread acclaim, while still managing to be original. In the years leading up to the recording of their first widely distributed release, the band recorded three EPs all building on this theme. Often the songs on EP were like sound vignettes that left the listener wanting more. On Music Has The Right To Children, BOC would explore longer more fleshed out compositions.
Playful songs like ‘An Eagle In Your Mind’ featuring the voices of kids at play give ‘Music..’ its charm, but it’s songs like ‘Telephasic Workshop’ and ‘Roygbiv’ that hook you with dance able beats and hypnotic melodies. The most loved track ‘Roygbiv’ was actually released a few years before on the EP Boc Maxima. It’s often covered by other electronic bands and has become something of a post-modern classic.
Despite not having much impact on the charts, Music Has the Right To Children was a consistent seller and was easily the year’s best electronic album.
BOC has slowly evolved the layered song composition approach. Music Has The Right To Children represents a brief moment when the BOC formula was at its most warmest and humorous, defiantly the place to start for anyone seeking something beyond the normal drone of trance, electronic or house music.