Tag Archives: boards of canada

New Release: Baths – “Ocean Death”

I’ve been a fan of Baths since the debut “Cerulean” was released in the summer of 2010. It didn’t really grab me at first, but I think that it really served as my gateway into electronic music in a lot of ways. I would always try to listen to Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin and other stuff and not really understand it, but when “Cerulean” came around it was really the first full album of electronic music that I could really connect with.

So, I think that, of course, there is some sort of sentimental value hearing this new track, but it’s pretty much undeniably good. “Ocean Death” is the name of the new EP that just came out last week, and is the name of the opening track, heard above. It’s darker in tone than anything on “Cerulean,” and pretty straight forward in comparison.

The opening track is pretty much a 3 part form with the outer parts taking the bulk of the track, and a brief contrasting middle section that drops everything only to build the structure back up again. The latter presentation of the original material features a bit of a development, which is probably a good thing because the first minute or so of the track has a tendency to feel like it is just sort of sitting there, and it just needs to move.

Nice thick bass timbres and a straightforward, moderate tempo dance beat accompany the opening of the song with a fairly static vocal that approaches from behind a perspective shifting harmonic progression. It’s pretty simple as far as songs go, but still effective in creating a darker mood, and captures the breathy, subtle scratchiness of some of the tracks on “Cerulean.”

Baths is currently on tour across the US. Check the tour dates below. “Ocean Death” is currently available as a download from iTunes.

North American Tour Dates w/ Young Fathers & P. Morris:

The Space – Hamden, CT

The Bowery Ballroom – New York, NY

Port City Music Hall – Portland, ME

Bones Gate Fraternity – Hanover, NH

S.A.T – Montreal, CA

Ritual – Ottawa, CA

Horseshoe Tavern – Toronto, CA

Magic Stick – Detroit, MI

Pyramid Scheme – Grand Rapids, MI

The Vogue – Indianapolis, IN

Concord Music Hall – Chicago, IL

Triple Rock Social Club – Minneapolis, MN

The Aquarium – Fargo, ND

The Starlite – Edmonton, CA

Commonwealth Bar & Stage – Calgary, CA

Fortune Sound Club – Vancouver, CA

Neumo’s Crystal Ball – Seattle, WA

Rotture – Portland, OR

WOW Hall – Eugene, OR

The Independent – San Francisco, CA

Cellar Door – Visalia, CA

Constellation Room – Santa Ana, CA

Casbah – San Diego, CA

New release: Illum Sphere – “Ghosts Of Then And Now”

First of all Bleep’s website makes it ridiculously difficult to listen to anything at all. You can listen to each track in pieces because after the 30 second sample is up you have to slide the player over to the next 30 seconds etc. etc. I mean, I can understand why they do it, but I would be happier being able to hear one entire song than having to mess with the player to hear detached pieces of a track.

Thankfully Ninja Tune, the label that released “Ghosts of Then and Now,” was kind enough to upload some of the tracks to Youtube.

Anyway, the reason that I head over to Bleep regularly is, well they send me their newsletter, and I’ve been listening to a lot of Autechre lately and it has given way to a new fascination with electronic music and it’s where you can get Autechre’s albums. So, I’ve been looking for similar artists to broaden my horizons.

Listening to Illum Sphere (as much as I can anyway), with the ultra thick bass and synth that buzzes through most of the tracks, it reminded me in some ways to Baths’ “Cerulean” album from a few years back.  But there’s also hints at proto-IDM like Kraftwere, which I hear heaps of in “Sleeprunner.” The kraut-rock, motorik sound has an undeniable influence throughout the track with its heavily cyclical and repetitive synth line, though it  takes a gradual turn toward the end.

The album has been out for a few weeks now, and it’s a really interesting listen, worth checking out. From the motorik synths of “Sleeprunner” to the Wurlitzer sound of the titular track, there is a lot to grab onto. I wouldn’t quite say that it’s similar to Boards of Canada, but it’s definitely closer to their output than it is to anything Autechre has done. Check out “Sleeprunner” (above) and “Ghosts of Then and Now.” (below) The album can be ordered from Bleep on CD, 2xLP, or various downloads, as well as on iTunes. And if you head to Bleep, you too can have fun trying to use the audio player. Hours of enjoyment. Test your skill.

Year in Review: Beach Fossils – “Clash the Truth”

Beach Fossils - "Clash the Truth"
Beach Fossils – “Clash the Truth”

In 2010 Beach Fossils put out, in my opinion, one of the best albums of that year. That self-titled release paired well with Real Estate’s debut, combining to form a genre of breezy, sun-showered, effortless tunes. Actually, those albums came out at about the same time that Hipster Runoff coined the term “chillwave,” and at some point I thought these were the bands the new genre was created for. I think it would work either way.

“Clash the Truth” brings back the sound of the debut while adding a few nice touches. Thankfully the ringing, delayed guitar is back – obviously a key component to what it is that makes them Beach Fossils. Thankfully though it’s a little more under control this time around. I remember “Lazy Day,” on the 2010 release, where the guitar strings were made to ring so much that an overtone could be heard sounding over top of the rest of the mix, in an additive sound that was borderline ear piercing.

On this most recent release the guitars are cleaned up, and overall everything is fine-tuned. The addition of an acoustic guitar on “Sleep Apnea” adds something that we haven’t heard yet. Immediately following is “Careless,” taking a bit more of an energetic approach, pushing their sound to the edge of perhaps something bordering on new-wave nostalgia.


Speaking of which, so often I find myself coming back to that word with its relation to music: nostalgia. It seems like that is one of the most effective ways to create meaningful, emotionally relevant music. If a sound can tune into some sort of sense of familiarity then it’s already halfway to making a deeper connection. Boards of Canada accomplishes this through the vintage instruments, so does Neon Indian, Beach Fossils, to me, is a little bit more mysterious in how they are creating their familiarity. Maybe it’s the echo and reverb that drenches everything, or the breathy, extended legato melodic lines over top of jittering guitars and motoric drums. Imagine Joy Division, and now imagine that they were actually enjoyable to listen to and not dark and depressing, I think that is what “Clash the Truth” is.

Caustic Cross

There are a few devices that the band continually returns to, a few guitar fills that come back song after song, and even the melody line of the voice grows a little tired after a while, seeming to trace and re-trace the same path. It’s the explorations into new timbres that makes the album interesting. The distorted bass over top of brightly strummed steel string acoustic guitar, all while the bouncing delayed electric guitar continues to cast its light onto the entire texture of “Birthday” is what makes that song stand out. The same goes for the guest vocal appearance of Kazu Makino adding another layer of breathy whispers to “In Vertigo.”

It’s great that Beach Fossils was able to follow up their debut with just as solid an album as “Clash the Truth” is. Their really molding their sound, finding different ways to develop and explore their sound, changing just enough to make it noticeable, while not so much where it is a shocking departure. Now if they could just stop their habit of ending some of their songs on scale degree 2….

The album is available on vinyl or CD from Captured Tracks, and you can check out their soundcloud here.


Beginning of the End: Best Albums of 2013 Part II: Boards of Canada – “Tomorrow’s Harvest”

Boards of Canada - "Tomorrow's Harvest"
Boards of Canada – “Tomorrow’s Harvest”

To me, anticipating the release of the new Boards of Canada album was significantly more exciting than anticipating the release of the new Daft Punk album. I’m not sure why, over time, I have learned to associate the two acts, but I do for some reason. And regardless of their similarities and differences, the Boards of Canada album, in the end, was worth the wait.

My gateway drug that got me into BOC was this fan made video for their song ROYGBIV, off of their “Music Has the Right to Children” album from 1998. The video captures perfectly the nostalgic elements that all BOC songs and albums exude. Even after hearing ROYGBIV, I did still find it difficult to get into their music. It became one of those things where I kept trying to listen to albums and I just didn’t get it, I just couldn’t make it through, there was not connection with me.

“Tomorrow’s Harvest” was my breakthrough with BOC. You can never explain why something finally takes hold, or when and why you just start to “get” it. Most of the time, for me, it is that I need to come to an album right as it is released. That’s how it worked with Arcade Fire for me, I couldn’t get into them until I heard “The Suburbs,” and that album made me change my feelings about the band completely (their music anyway).

I know that there are whole message boards and sites where fans go to dissect Boards of Canada songs and find hidden meaning and secret codes and really try to get into what makes the songs work. I (naturally) love that. I love that a band can inspire so many people into music analysis. That’s a good thing. When people are not only enjoying the music, but feeling compelled to find deeper meaning beyond just their enjoyment, that is unique. Not many bands inspire that kind of dedication.

Boards of Canada – Sick Times

Based on the marketing campaign that preceded this album’s release shows how well Boards of Canada knows their fans, and how they are acutely aware of their dedication to decoding multiple layers of meaning in the music. Maybe it’s that dedication that gives the music of Boards of Canada some agency. Finding things that are worth discovering in the music; things that spark conversation can only help it to become elevated.

From the sly “and now for your feature presentation” type intro that comprises the first few seconds of the opening track, that seems to nod to its fans that “yes, it has been 8 years since our last album, but we are back.” Of course, an absence such as the one that came between 2005’s “The Campfire Headphase” and “Tomorrow’s Harvest” will inspire excitement among any fanbase, but in this instance in particular it seems warranted.

BOC’s use of vintage synths, the most obvious and immediately recognizable component of their sound, now seems to comment on the grittiness of chillwave bands that try to capture the same sense of nostalgia, reminding us that they came first.

There’s something not so vaguely cinematic about the songs across “Tomorrow’s Harvest.” A song like “Telepath,” though brief, contains so much content. From the floating, fog-like, minor key suspended in air through extended synth drones, to the echoed, robotic, Kraftwerk-like voice reading numbers over the top, coming off as some sort of numbers station that both adds to the strange aura that surrounds the song while also most like providing some sort of code that I’m sure has been decoded by their fans on a message board already.

Boards of Canada – Cold Earth

As abstract as what I’m about to say is, I don’t think that anyone that has heard the album will disagree that the album cover matches the sound of the album particularly well. The last time I felt so strongly about such a thing was when I felt the connection between the gritty, scratched out and fuzzy cover photograph on Women’s “Public Strain.” The hazy sunrise on this album cover personifies the waves of ambience present, not below the surface of the tracks, but right out front.

I think that that is what Boards of Canada is best at – curating a sound and finding ways to focus on that ambience and timbre, using timbre as the structural touchstone for each of the compositions on an album. That’s the element that they focus on, or so it seems, and that is what allows them to build their songs. Timbre, though, is more than just sound quality here. The pacing, the way that the melodies are stitched together and their choice of harmonic structure (that is itself propped up by the timbre), they all fit together to create the sound of the album.

This is the 2nd Warp records release this year that I have been really floored by, the other one being Autechre’s “Exai.” Definitely an album worth returning to, or if you have not had the chance to experience “Tomorrow’s Harvest” yet this year, make it a point to do so soon. “Tomorrow’s Harvest” may be Boards of Canada’s best album to date.