|title||The Secret Life of Boards of Canada|
|issue||23 February 2002|
"The Secret Life of Boards of Canada" is an interview by John Mulvey originally published Feb. 23 2002 in NME magazine.
This is an original text copied verbatim from the original source. Do not edit this text to correct errors or misspellings. Aside from added wikilinks, this text is exactly as it originally appeared.
The Secret Life of Boards of Canada
From the Pentland Hills, just south of Edinburgh, it's possible to examine the world at a different angle. Nature becomes reduced to a pattern of hexagons. Melodies sound better in reverse. Bonfires make for better nights out than clubs. And the colour of the universe is, unequivocally, turquoise. This is where Boards Of Canada, Britain's most exceptional and reclusive electronica group, see things from. Or, at least, how they may see things. In comparison, the Aphex Twin is an open book, as straightforward in art and life as Fran Healy. A trawl of the internet for facts about the Boards duo of Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin turns up a proliferation of witchy rumours but precious few hard facts. They record in a disused nuclear bunker, it's suggested. They belong to some defiantly obscure art-collective-cum-cult named Turquoise Hexagon Sun. They fill their music with backwards messages, alternately sinister and playful, that range from invocations to a "horned god" (one old side project was named Hell Interface) to samples of ELO's Jeff Lynne. In the Boards of Canada section of the Warp Records website, alongside cover images and a few scant details about release dates, is a link to a Guardian news story which offers conclusive proof the average colour of the universe is "A greenish hue halfway between aquamarine and turquoise" when all visible light is mixed together.
All very intriguing, of course. But when BOC have made one of the most anxiously anticipated albums in years, hardly satisfying. To date, Sandison and Eoin have made a tremendous amount of music, most of which has neither ever been released or else is long unavailable; their 1996 debut EP for the Skam label, "Twoism", is currently available for a tidy £710 on eBay. For most people, their reputation rests on 'Music Has The Right To Children', the 1998 album that mixed spectral, quasi-ambient melodies and dulled hip-hop beats with the constant chatter of infants, hovering tantalisingly beyond comprehension. Deceptively simplistic, there was something about the way the melodies twisted backwards and forwards around each other, about the tangibly creepy atmosphere that pervaded it, that made for an extraordinary debut. By the time 'In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country' an uncommonly beautiful EP, was released at the end of 2000, the band enjoyed a near-holy status among electronica fans - not to mention artists, plenty of whom had diligently adapted BOC's spooked, rustic kindergarten vibes for themselves. And when the long-promised second album, 'Geogaddi', unexpectedly appeared on release schedules a month ago, the grassroots hype became phenomenal.
Knowing that part of the band's allure is their inaccessibility, Warp embarked on a campaign to make hearing 'Geogaddi' as difficult as possible. Virtually no new music made it onto the internet: download apparently new tracks from Audiogalaxy and you're as likely to discover an ambient fake, four minutes of looped speech samples or an old Brian Eno tune. The track titles, meanwhile, could only be located on HMV's Japanese site. Eventually, 'Geogaddi' was premiered in six churches around the world - in London, New York, Edinburgh, Tokyo, Berlin and Paris. Slides of children playing, of sunsets where the sky is bent into a hexagon, were projected above the altars. Small turquoise hexagons took the place of hymn books.
And then there was the album: 66 minutes and six seconds of music that is both soothing and disorienting, lushly beautiful yet creaky and unnerving. One track, 'Opening The Mouth', sounds like a heavy-breathing call from a banshee. Another, the truly horrible 'The Devil Is In The Details', alternates between the instructions on a relaxation tape and a desperately crying child. There are ghostly organs and distant tablas, warnings of volcanic explosions, an ecstatic vocal about "1969 in the sunshine" and an overall feeling that this heady, saturated music is how My Bloody Valentine might've sounded had they released anything after 1991's 'Loveless'. Honestly, it's that good.
Early February 2002, and Boards Of Canada have consented to a rare interview with NME, on the understanding it runs after the album's release. To preserve their privacy, it's to be conducted by email, but the resulting answers still shed a little light on the world of Sandison and Eoin, without ever completely dismantling their mystique.To begin, their name derives from the National Film Board Of Canada, whose nature documentaries enraptured the Scottish-born pair when they spent some time living in Calgary as children.
One thing Boards Of Canada are emphatic about, for all the talk of bonfires and rural retreats, is that they're not hippies. We ask if they're a psychedelic band, and Marcus replies: "If you mean psychedelic in a scientific way, then, yeah, that's probably fair. But if you mean it in a lifestyle way, you know, hippy-large floppy hat, patchouli oil and colourful trousers way, then nothing could be further from who we are." Further from what, though? Tempt BOC into the open for a few moments and still, you can only make out the faintest of outlines. And ask them, finally, how important mystery and a lack of information is to their music, and they'll prove it by sidestepping the question. "We just try to keep ourselves to ourselves," concludes Marcus Eoin. "The music is what is important." Of course.
interview by by John Mulvery, February 2002.