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A STUDY IN BROKEN BEATS



"The appeal of Twoism is wide -- this album is as suited for the speculative listener as much as the ardent fan, make no mistake. Lush textures may represent a cliché, but that's what they are in terms of the Boards' sound. Boards of Canada's appeal has gone beyond the narrow confines of Warp techno aficionados, through word of mouth recommendation as the artists' artists, to widespread critical acclaim for their 1998 offering Music Has the Right to Children and 2002's Geogaddi."

By Andrew Stevens

COPYRIGHT © 2003, 3 A.M. MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


Boards of Canada - Twoism (Warp Records, November 2002)

Hailing from the wastelands outside of urban Scotland, Boards of Canada have steadily gained a reputation as one of Warp (the acclaimed and influential Sheffield-based low-key techno label) Records' most eminent outfits. A few years back, fellow Warp mainstay, the Aphex Twin used a food processor during a festival gig to generate sound through a sequencer that actually caused the audience to dance. I'm not sure what kitchen implement Boards of Canada would deploy for the same effect but the results would not be anywhere near as abrasive, their style being more akin to simplistic ambient soundscapes over relaxed hip-hop beats. Husker Du frontman Bob Mould recently compared the duo to My Bloody Valentine.

Twoism is the reissue of their 1996 limited-run mini-album, clearly cashing in on the band's steadily accumulating popularity as pioneers of ambient techno experimentalism. And rightly so -- the 1996 release was only limited to 100 copies (made, in lieu of a demo tape, to send to record companies), with copies changing hands for up to £800 a time on ebay. It is reputed that one electronic outfit managed to finance the recording of their debut album using the largesse acquired from the sale of Twoism on ebay -- a bizarre process of one band's work directly leading to the underwriting of another. Therefore the album was as eagerly anticipated as a new release - not bad going considering the Boards had a new album (Geogaddi) out earlier this year.

The appeal of Twoism is wide -- this album is as suited for the speculative listener as much as the ardent fan, make no mistake. Lush textures may represent a cliché, but that's what they are in terms of the Boards' sound. Boards of Canada's appeal has gone beyond the narrow confines of Warp techno aficionados, through word of mouth recommendation as the artists' artists, to widespread critical acclaim for their 1998 offering Music Has the Right to Children and 2002's Geogaddi. Placed back to back, there is no logical progression in the styles of all three albums, effectively all three could have been taken from the same recording sessions as far as the listener is concerned. This is no bad thing.

The album itself invokes sounds reminiscent, in some ways, of other Warp acts -- the low-key hip-hop of early Plaid or more recent Nightmares on Wax, the playful tones of Plone or the more ambient moments of Autechre, for instance. Opening with the somewhat down-tempo and ominously titled 'Sixtyniner' the album progresses well through its eight tracks to 'Smokes Quantity', where it ends. 'Basefree' stands out as a distraction to the flow and serves as a quality track to boot.

The appeal of Warp techno is now so widespread that it is effectively a genre in its own right (Radiohead's Kid A album was hugely derivative of it), although much of their output is more commonly referred to as intelligent dance music in some quarters. The current rise of 'blip-hop', another media pidgeonhole recently boosted by a Blip-Hop compilation (featuring, inter alia, Germany's Mouse on Mars) issued on ex-Talking Head David Byrne's Luka Bop label, will only serve to draw attention from outside the dance music community to it. Thankfully, Boards of Canada seem to be appreciated as artists outside the pidgeonhole and a well-received release of an obscure six-year old mini-album stands as testimony to that. A study in broken beats.




ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Stevens lives in London and periodically attends Goldsmiths College. He works in urban renewal and city planning, fascinated as he is with architecture and cityscapes. His loves include techno music, disused underground stations and nuclear shelters, satire, brunettes and trashy fiction, in no particular order. His hates are too numerous to list or dwell on longer than five seconds.





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