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
- Telephasic Workshop, from Music Has the Right to Children.
- Amo Bishop Roden, from In A Beautiful Place Out in the Country EP.
- Dawn Chorus , from Geogaddi.
- Peacock Tail, from The Campfire Headphase.
- Left Side Drive, from Trans Canada Highway EP.
- *Bonus* Bocuma, from Music Has the Right to Children.
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!