Boards of Canada

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Boards of Canada are a Scottish electronic music group. At present, the band is comprised of the brothers Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin, although there have been as many as twelve members at one point.

The Sandison brothers were both born in Scotland, but moved to Canada at an early age. It's arguable that without this move, Boards of Canada would not exist; the sense of displacement and nostalgia in the music that seems to be mentioned in every review, and obviously the band's namesake, the National Film Board of Canada all seem to hark back to a period in the late seventies and early eighties when there were psychedelic videos on Sesame Street, and the Cold War was in full swing.

At present, the duo live in Scotland again, working out of the Hexagon Sun Studio.

Family relation[edit]

Before their 2005 interview with Pitchfork, Michael and Marcus were seen as just two friends with a mutual appreciation for music and the art of music creation. They had often talked about their youth together, creating ramshackle musical projects with buddies and by themselves and how they met at a young age. However, during the interview with Pitchfork Media, they revealed that they are in fact brothers. The reason behind hiding this fact was that they did not want to be seen as just another brotherly-owned electronic band, such as Orbital, another influential electronic group consisting of Paul and Phil Hartnoll.

In light of their brotherhood, it has often been assumed that Eoin is Marcus's middle name and that his full name should be "Marcus Eoin Sandison". However, this is purely conjecture; there is no known evidence supporting it. Brothers sometimes have different last names: for example, they may be half-brothers, each with a different father and hence a different family name.

Regardless of whether or not it is his full name, Eoin has consistently used the name "Marcus Eoin" on all known Boards of Canada releases, including the Trans Canada Highway EP that was issued well after the Pitchfork interview was published.

Recording history, commercially known work[edit]

Boards of Canada's commercially known and full-length discography begins with their smash-hit album Music Has the Right to Children. Being dubbed one of the greatest creations in electronic music history, Music Has the Right to Children introduced many to Boards of Canada and left awfully big shoes for the duo to fill for their next album. During the time between Music Has the Right to Children and In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country, an EP named Peel Session was released - a recording of a broadcast on BBC Radio 1 from July 21, 1998, released on January 11, 1999. Two years after their first full-length album was released, they shipped out In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country - a four track EP that first made mention of the mysterious Branch Davidian group that Boards of Canada are so fond of remarking upon in their songs and albums. Two of its songs have to do with the group. The duo's next release, on February 18, 2002, was the fascinating Geogaddi. Geogaddi's stellar kaleidoscopic artwork lavishly coats the album cover on all of the versions, but is truly magnificent on the triple vinyl set. Within the gatefold package are three sleeves showing an array of hexagonally-styled artwork with different images each side. Many would agree that this is what twelve inches of free space is really for.

Interestingly Geogaddi was not a fan favorite from the beginning. With many still hung onto Music Has the Right to Children, reviews looked down on Michael and Marcus' sophomore album as "under-produced" or not as good as their last album. Despite this, the album has mystified listeners with its large amounts of hidden details, subtle hints towards cosmic entities and kaleidoscopic imagery, Geogaddi is now held as one of the duo's best albums to date, auditorily and visually. Jump a couple years into the future to 2005 when Boards of Canada finally released their first album in three years. The Campfire Headphase made two milestones: it incorporated guitars and lacked the trademark laughter. Instead of kids playing and laughing, and educational tunes chiming, there was the sound of an untuned, poorly-kempt guitar to create a totally new sound for Boards of Canada. Some welcomed this change, while others disagreed with it, citing the difference between this and their early, "better" work.

On April 20th, 2013, Warp Records scattered six exclusive vinyl records across various countries for International Record Store Day. These records contained a short transmission, which lead to the beginnings of what would be called the Cosecha Transmisiones, that would eventually lead up to the release of Boards of Canada's first full length record in eight years, "Tomorrow's Harvest", on June 10th, 2013 (June 11th release for America). A full Tomorrow's Harvest Viral Marketing Campaign followed in the weeks after these transmissions. This record saw a more visual and fan interaction oriented era. The album's lead promotional single "Reach For The Dead" premiered on BBC's Radio 1, quickly followed by an official stream on, as well as a YouTube video on the duo's official account. All in all, this seemed to be the Sandisons' return to a more electronic influenced record, recalling the days of Geogaddi and arguably even back to the "A Few Old Tunes" releases.

Pre-commercially known work[edit]

Besides their successful full-length albums, Boards of Canada also have an extensive list of early work. The assorted creations date back to the 1980s and most information regarding them is widely available. This includes album artwork and titles, song lengths and times and so on. Although at present most of this work has never been released to the general public and may never be heard by people other than the brothers friends and family. However, there has been rumors that they actually may release a boxset with their earlier work in it but this is all purely speculation.

Possibly the most well known early album was Twoism. An album with a strong fan following, Twoism was the reason the duo received their record deal. Sean Booth, from Autechre, brought Twoism to the attention of Skam Records president Andy Maddocks and it took off from there.

Lyrics, garbled speech and sounds[edit]

Boards of Canada utilize many tricks and sounds during the creation of their albums. Most of the assorted sounds used went on later to become trademarks of the band and give them reason for their "nostalgic" label. They also use many lyrics in their albums ranging from one-liners to full paragraphs. Most of their speech bits are words that are simple or things you would hear in movies literally. But most of the other lyrics are equally as garbled, cut-up, destroyed, mixed or reversed.

One of the more prominant methods in the production of their albums is making them sound as if they came right off an old educational program from the 1970s. Being born during the early '70s and growing up on its shows, Michael and Marcus delight in bringing back old memories with imitating the faint, childish and artificial sounds of the time.

List of samples used by Boards of Canada

Live sets[edit]

As a band, Michael and Marcus have only played a handful of live shows. But what makes these shows so special is that besides playing original, well-loved songs, they often also play never before heard, unnamed songs. Some of their most fascinating and finest songs are played during these live shows.

The show with the largest amount of unreleased work is their 2001 performance during All Tomorrow's Parties. Encompassing five unknown songs and seven known, this collection displays what Boards of Canada really has in their unreleased music rack.

Musical Influences[edit]

In interviews, Boards of Canada have identified numerous artists who have had an effect upon their work:


See Discography


See Interviews


See Videos

Related pages[edit]