Sunday, February 26, 2006

Aural, meet visual

Long before the release of their genre-defining Music Has A Right To Children, long before they had secured a spot on one of those ubiquitous NME "best of" lists (top psychedelic records, this one was), long before the term IDM was bandied about, Boards of Canada was in the business of soundtracking movies. Home movies, that is.

With the aid of a Super 8 camera, teenagers Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin, and a clutch of close friends, hopped on their Huffys and began capturing their world on celluloid. Setting music to these films came next.

Even then, many years before success tapped them on the shoulder, Boards of Canada --who are based on Scotland's northern coast -- recognized how their ambient compositions so perfectly commingled with the visual world. Music serving as narrator -- telling a story in a way on-screen words, actions, and expressions can not.

So one can't help but approach Boards of Canada tracks in this light, picturing them as scores to imaginary films. I've long thought of the tune "Olson" as the ideal background music for a climax involving a recently enlightened protagonist. Eyes searching without really seeing, he silently contemplates what's been revealed to him. Then, his stone face turns soft. He didn't get it before (whatever it was), but he does now, and as the song closes with subtle strains of piano, our protagonist can't help but nod his head and smile. He's satisfied -- we're satisfied. Roll the credits.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Olson" by Boards of Canada. I also included a rendition of the song cut during a July, 1998 Peel session. It's more fleshed-out, more synthetic, more unnerving.