Boards of Canada
Marcus Eoin and Michael Sandison
Mathmetician Gregory Chaitin in the March 2006 issue of Scientific American describes his number Ω (Omega) as “perfectly well defined,” but impossible to construct in its entirety because it’s a merely a probability. Its properties are simultaneously normal and transcendental. This also describes Boards of Canada’s latest release, Trans Canada Highway (2006, Warp Records).
Described as an “epic sci-fi western,” the EP was originally slated for release as a single for the standout track “Dayvan Cowboy,” but the Scotland-based brother duo, Marcus Eoin and Michael Sandison, created a few more tracks and added a remix courtesy of Odd Nosdam and the release was bumped to official EP status.
The band has been on the fringe of commercial success for some time while enjoying a stable and growing cult following that includes artists such as Kevin Ogilivie (Skinny Puppy) and Beck. At the end of 2004, Beck asked Boards of Canada to remix a song for his upcoming album Guero. BOC took the vocal lines of Beck’s “Broken Drum” and created a whole new track, with an epic, heavily layered crescendo. Beck would later describe the the remix as “my favorite remix Iâ€™ve ever had done.”
Sandison and Eoin make a particular case for constructing, but never defining an emotional object through the music on Trans Canada Highway. The defining track is “Dayvan Cowboy” which appears on the release in an accessible original mix form and the Odd Nosdam remix which could be mistaken for a completely different track. The remix is a longer and more detailed telling of the “Dayvan Cowboy’s” tale. The remix and original track are Ω because they define an identical reflective and pastoral mood while never completely constructing it. The track, as an emotive object, has a clear structure. It rises and falls while suggesting a challenging, life-defining journey. Intermittently, there are abrupt, but bearable sidebars that take a listener into other rooms – other chapters – of the track. It’s a lifetime of probabilities lived in less than 10 minutes.
Other standout tracks include “Left Side Drive,” a wintry and halcyon stroll through an almost bleak mindscape; “Heard from Telegraph Lines,” a short, but hopeful track that delivers promise; and “Under the Coke Sign,” a small auditory peek into an industrial, urban mindspace.
As with Ω, the mood properties of all the tracks on Trans Canada Highway are clearly defined, but entire tracks are ultimately emotively inaccessible because there is something more to them determined more by probability than law. Each track has been constructed with a limited amount of reason. The meaning of each of the tracks, however, is organically infinite dependent on the listener.
Boards of Canada began work on a new release in the fall of 2006.
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- Photo courtesy of Warp Records.