Listen to this track by Scottish downtempo post-rock duo, and National Film Board obsessives Boards of Canada. It’s “Dayvan Cowboy”, a track that appears on their 2005 album The Campfire Headphase as well as the follow-up EP that appeared the next year, Trans-Canada Highway.
This track was the lead song of the whole record, released a few weeks before to give listeners a taste of what was to be the band’s third release. With their previous releases, they’d become known for heavily treated instrumentation that obscured the original sounds of the instruments used to create the parts.
The result was pure analogue electronic texture that translates into warm atmospheres with a sense of spaciousness, and an ineffable nostalgia for the hazy memories of childhood. That’s their genius.
But, on this track and on many of the others, they changed their tack a bit.
Here’s a clip of Boards of Canada’s song “Roygbiv”, a favourite of mine for reasons I’m not entirely sure of. This sounds a bit derogatory, maybe. But I mean it in the best of senses. There’s something about this track, which is true of many tracks on the album off of which it comes, Music Has the Right to Children – it reminds me of my early childhood. There is something ineffably early 70s about this. Perhaps this is easily understood, given that much of the output, and the very name of this electronica outfit was inspired by Canadian National Film Board shorts and the accompanying soundtracks produced in this era. Somehow, they must have made their way to Scotland, where Boards of Canada hail from.
“Roygbiv” (a acronym for the color spectrum – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet) was a single of the album, which really isn’t about the singles. This is a record to be listened to in one sitting, with an overall effect to be experienced ranging from these sorts of vague remembrances of the past, with some humour, and not just a little bit of menace too. Perhaps this is what makes this record such a standout from the late-90s Warp Records scene. This is an album meant to be listened to for its subtleties, an ambient record that will not be ignored – a contradiction in terms that proves to be utterly compelling.