Trackpacking: Boards of Canada

by Keith Savage · 14 comments


Boards of Canada

Trackpacking is a recurring series highlighting musicians that inspire me to travel.

Nestled somewhere in the Pentland Hills outside Edinburgh, Scotland, two men, who until recently were not known to be brothers, concoct otherworldly electronic compositions under the moniker Boards of Canada. This is not your standard booty-shaking thump-thump-thump-thump electronic music, it is mathematical in its construction and historical in its use of samples. Boards of Canada don’t do live shows probably because it would look like a post-graduate study hall. Well, that and perhaps the music wouldn’t grow in any appreciable way in a social setting.

This is pensive, personal, and provocative music.

Listening to Boards of Canada, you might feel nostalgic for some past that never happened. Their songs are emotionally affecting, and it’s this aspect of their musicianship that earns them a spot in the Trackpacking series. The aforementioned samples, often innocuous children’s voices or snippets from 70s-era nature programs, fade into songs from decades past and dissolve like the ghosts that they are. Heavy, sometimes plodding, beats often sit front and center in the songs, but the most noticeable and prevalent feature are the warm, ethereal synth melodies floating over compositions, like the sun shining down at you through water. However, there is often a menacing aura lurking beneath the music. Atonal sounds, warped instruments, and slightly-off melodies punctuate and morph otherwise classically beautiful music.

I stumbled on Boards of Canada while in college, back in 2001. Since then, their music has been the backdrop to many of my trips including a three-week jaunt around Scotland. The music is food for the brain – it makes you think – and it helps me to engage more with my surroundings. That might sound weird, but give them a listen and see how your mindset changes. On a trivial side note, I used to produce my own music (and plan to continue doing so in the future) and many of my compositions were heavily influenced by Boards of Canada’s use of melody.

It’s been five years since Boards of Canada released an album, but, much like the samples they use, their music has a timeless quality. Luckily, it sounds like there’s a new Boards of Canada album on the horizon. Who can say what future trips that album will be the soundtrack to?

Pack These Tracks

Create a Moment with Boards of Canada

  • Hook up the iPod for a long drive through the countryside.
  • Set up a chill night with friends and Boards of Canada, and it might seem like you’re on mind-altering substances.
  • Think, dream, or write in a dark room, headphones keeping the world at bay.

What music moves you? Suggest something for me to listen to when I get back!


Zablon MukubaNo Gravatar November 23, 2010 at 11:38 PM

i listen to a lot of music from many places, and am still impressed when i get a new band or song that i havent listened to. i will be looking for their music

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 24, 2010 at 7:11 AM

Boards of Canada are well worth your time.

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JoAnnaNo Gravatar November 22, 2010 at 10:06 PM

I LOVE Boards of Canada, and, as weird as it sounds, I like to run to their music. Have you listened to Bon Iver? You might like his sound.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 22, 2010 at 10:38 PM

Cool, another BoC fan! I can see how their music would be good for running. Love Bon Iver – he’s from my neck of the woods (Wisconsin). He’ll probably get his own Trackpacking post at some point.

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JoAnnaNo Gravatar November 23, 2010 at 11:23 AM

Um … he’s from my neck of the woods (Wisconsin). We went to neighboring high schools and I knew of him when he was playing with Mount Vernon.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 23, 2010 at 11:25 AM

JoAnna, you’re a Wisconsinite? Points points points. Ok, you win the neck of the woods battle 🙂

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AshleaNo Gravatar November 22, 2010 at 6:04 PM

Never heard of them, but you’ve convinced me to give them a listen. Anything with the word “Canada” in it has to be good anyways : ) The way you described them reminds me of Sigur Ros, they are a must listen, the unnamed album track number 3 is to die for, it builds so much suspense.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 22, 2010 at 10:39 PM

Definitely give Boards of Canada a listen. I really like Sigur Ros and they’re on the list for a Trackpacking post in the future.

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FayeNo Gravatar November 23, 2010 at 1:24 PM

I love Sigur Ros, too — their music videos with Iceland as the backdrop are amazing! I saw Jonsi in concert a few weeks ago, and it was amazing. His music is just ethereal, beautiful- the perfect soundtrack for anything nature-y!

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 17, 2010 at 10:48 AM

Sigur Ros is on the list for a future Trackpacking article 🙂

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