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 Come out and live with a religious community in a beautiful place out in the country.

Boards of Canada are an electronic music duo formed of two Scottish brothers, Mike Sandison and Marcus Eoin. [1] They are known for their ambient-downtempo-psychedelic-trippy sound constructed by a combination of electronic and normal instrumentation with Trip Hop-influenced beats and samples of old seventies media (their name is a nod to the documentaries produced by the National Film Board of Canada, which they were heavily influenced by as their family moved to Canada during their childhood), giving their music a more pastoral and human character compared to other purely synthetic electronic bands. A frequent metaphor/comparison among reviewers is that their music sounds like "the last sounds of a dying machine from The Seventies that just got recently excavated," or something along those lines.

Despite the general sunny, optimistic character of their music, the brothers have been known to dip into the scary every now and then, especially on Geogaddi.

Boards of Canada has existed since 1986, when Marcus joined Mike's band, but ever since 1989 the band consists solely of the Sandison brothers. Their early songs were released through self-financed cassette releases on their Music70 label, but ever since 1998 their albums have appeared through Warp Records.

Among their influences, the brothers have cited The Incredible String Band (claiming shared pastoral sensibilities), The Beatles and My Bloody Valentine.

David Firth loves them.


Pre-Warp releases (generally unavailable unless you really dig after them; the last two are somewhat easier to get a hold of):

  • 1987 - Catalog 3
  • 1989 - Acid Memories
  • 1992 - Closes Vol. 1
  • 1994 - Play By Numbers
  • 1994 - Hooper Bay
  • 1995 - Twoism (re-released in 2002)
  • 1996 - Boc Maxima

Major releases:

  • 1998 - Music Has the Right to Children
  • 1998 - Aquarius EP
  • 1999 - Peel Session
  • 2000 - In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country EP
  • 2002 - Geogaddi
  • 2005 - The Campfire Headphase
  • 2006 - Trans Canada Highway EP
Tropes used in Boards of Canada include:

  • An Aesop: "One Very Important Thought".
  • Arc Number: 70. "Sixtyten" is based on how "70" is said in French. Geogaddi features a song called "The Smallest Weird Number," which happens to be 70. Before being signed to Warp, they were on their own independent label called Music70.
  • Author Appeal: Mike and Marcus are very interested in subliminal messaging, numbers, and cults. Expect references to these, especially on Geogaddi.
  • The Blank: The cover of Music Has The Right To Children shows a faceless family, and the persons on the covers of Geogaddi and The Campfire Headphase similarly have their facial features obscured or outright blanked out (it's difficult to tell, since unlike the clearer image of Children, those two album covers have the persons standing at angles that already obscure their face, and are also subjected to heavy visual distortion and filtering).
  • Children Are Innocent: A recurring theme often either played straight or averted.
  • Electronic Music
  • Ghibli Hills: Boards of Canada is arguably the aural equivalent of this. When they're not being terrifying, that is.
  • New Sound Album: The Campfire Headphase shifted Boards of Canada's sound into a more guitar, pastoral sound driven direction, mainly to avoid pigeonholing. Fans and critics are divided on whether or not this is for the better.
  • Non-Appearing Title: None of their albums or EPs feature the album title in a song, In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country, Twoism, and Boc Maxima being exceptions.
  • Number of the Beast: Geogaddi's last track, "Hidden Window", is 1:46 minutes of silence in order to make the final album length 66:06. Word of God claims this was done For the Lulz after a suggestion from Warp Records president Steve Beckett, playing on more gullible listeners' worries about the Subliminal Seduction and scary stuff in their material.
    • This joke doesn't work on the Japanese version of the album, whose bonus track "From One Source All Things Depend" pushes the length to 68:14.
  • Old Shame: They refuse to acknowledge the existence of any of their work prior to Twoism.
  • Reclusive Artist: So very yes.
  • Sampling: Heavy use of this, especially from field recordings, movies, Sesame Street (yes, really) National Film Board of Canada documentaries, numbers stations (especially on Geogaddi) and lots and lots of children's voices, as well as more "normal" sampling of other songs ("Aquarius", for instance, is driven by a sample from the Hair soundtrack). Children's voices were deliberately removed from Headphase, with Marcus explaining that it was meant to avoid being pigeonholed:

 We always have people putting fakes on the Internet before a new record is released, and the fakes are always really electronic with little kids' voices and things like that.

  • Shout-Out: The group name is a reference to the National Film Board of Canada. Their titles and samples can be pretty heavy on this as well:
    • "Turquoise Hexagon Sun" and "Orange Hexagon Sun" reference the Hexagon Sun artistic collective, which supposedly includes the band, Iain Campbell, Simon Goderich, Mark Garrett, Rachel Stewart, Alan Mackenzie, and Andrew Wilson. The band also use "Hexagon Sun" as the name of their recording studio.
    • The Branch Davidian cult gets referenced in "Amo Bishop Roden" (she was married to George Roden, who was a rival to David Koresh), "In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country" (whose title and main vocal sample is apparently cribbed from a description of their compound in Waco used by Roden to advertise the cult; the EP's cover also contains a small image of Koresh hidden underneath the CD tray) and "1969" (the vocoded sample "Although not a follower of hseroK divaD, she's a devoted Branch Davidian" is also a reference to Roden).
    • "Telephasic Workshop", among other things, is suggested by the BoCpages fansite to be a reference to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, best known for its contributions to Doctor Who.
    • "Kaini Industries" is a misspelling of Kainai Industries, a Canadian company set up in July 1971 (the month Mike was born) to provide emplyoment for a Kainai (Blood Nation) reserve.
    • "Roygbiv" is a famous mnemonic used to remember the order of colours in a rainbow.
    • "Aquarius" is named that because its primary sample comes from "Aquarius" by Galt MacDermot, from the Hair soundtrack (specifically, the 1979 soundtrack). This is a bit more noticeable on the Aquarius EP version (pay attention for the slap bass riff), as the Music Has the Right to Children version runs the sample through some heavier EQ'ing and processing. The song also uses samples from vintage Sesame Street episodes (the man saying "orange", kids laughing and saying "yeah, that's right").
    • "Olson" and "Smokes Quantity" are references to the band's friends Melissa Olson (who directed the "Dayvan Cowboy" video) and an unnamed friend who was nicknamed "Smokes Quantity".
    • "Pete Standing Alone" is a reference to Pete Standing Alone, a First Nation Canadian who appeared in seven National Film Board of Canada documentaries about the Kainai nation, including Circle of the Sun.
    • Geogaddi's title is usually considered to be a Portmanteau of "Geo-" (Greek for "earth") and "Gaddi", the name of a pacifist, nomadic Hindu tribe from Himachal Pradesh in northwestern India. Its references lean more towards religious symbolism and mathematics ("A Is To B As B Is To C", "The Smallest Weird Number", "Music Is Math").
  • Signature Song: "Roygbiv"... not that it's the only one that can be called that: "Dayvan Cowboy," "1969," and "Music Is Math" also are contenders.
  • Subliminal Seduction: All of their albums employ heavy use of reversing, which sometimes has landed them in hot water. Notably, some of their shorter songs like "Dandelion" and "Over the Horizon Radar" are made almost entirely of this.[2]
  • Teen Genius: Considering the fact that Mike was born in 1971 and Marcus in 1973, they technically started Boards of Canada when they were still teenagers, like their Warp labelmate Aphex Twin. (And much like Aphex, it took them a while to find their trademark style.)
  • Wild Mass Guessing: Possibly one of the most guessed-about bands ever, especially since they love using cryptic song titles, obscure and distorted samples, and references to numbers and cults.
  • Zeerust: Boards of Canada was directly influenced by the National Board of Canada's old 1970s music, so this is no surprise.


  1. (For a while they pulled a White Stripes and pretended they were just friends; when asked why they explained that they didn't want to attract needless comparisons to Orbital, another Sibling Team electronic band.)
  2. If re-reversed to hear the original, "Dandelion" turns out to sound a bit like a Chiptune and "Over the Horizon Radar" is... well, still hauntingly beautiful, but it becomes clearer that its melody is played on a Rhodes keyboard.
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