You might have heard around the water coolers of the Internet that Boards of Canada is releasing a new album on Tuesday. And first hearing that, you probably did one of two things: 1) rip your shirt off and beat your chest, yelling out in sheer ecstasy, or 2) click the “back” button and press on elsewhere, with as much excitement as hearing Ohio Express had announced a reunion tour.
Boards of Canada isn’t a love/hate band; it’s a worship/heard-of-but-don’t-listen-to band. And with the Scottish duo’s first release in eight years—the same hiatus interval as that other resurgent European electronic duo—now’s as good a time as any to decide whether or not these guys are worth all that digital ink spilled in their name.
Without further ado, here’s our primer to Boards of Canada.
Boards of Canada is Mike Sandison and Marcus Eoin. Despite their lack of identity concealing headgear, the duo is as protective about their private lives as Daft Punk, if not more so. They grant only a handful of interviews per album, most via email, and are tight lipped about virtually anything pertaining to their lives outside of music—even their ties to one another.
Sandison and Eoin were initially thought to be childhood friends from the same hometown in Scotland. But in an interview with Pitchfork promoting the release of 2005’s “The Campfire Headphase,” the duo revealed themselves as brothers (Eoin being Marcus Sandison’s middle name).
The band’s name comes from the National Film Board of Canada, the Canadian government’s public film organization. The brothers developed a love of their films when they moved to Canada briefly as youngsters, an appreciation apparent in their music when they include bits from NFBoC documentaries in songs.
The duo is known to record in a studio in rural Scotland referred to as Hexagon Sun. Hexagon Sun is speculated to represent an artistic collective involved with the studio as well, including BoC among others.
Though they’re distinctly electronic, Boards of Canada get there with few digital assists. The subtle quiver of analog synthesizers are favored over their consistent digital counterparts; straight pick-to-string and drum-rattling instrumentation over sampling, by and large.
Most BoC songs do feature samples, though, just typically not rhythm based ones. Instead, we get eerie vocal clips, including a girl drawling “I love you” repeatedly, women counting off strings of seemingly random numbers and a reference to David Karesh and the Branch Davidians.
Coupled with their legendary silence, it’s enough to inspire some serious conspiracy theories on the nature of the Sandisons—Are they Satanists? Aliens? If so, do they come in peace?—or, as they put it in a 2005 interview with Clash magazine, “the flood of bullshit that fills in your silhouette.”