Right time, right place for once. Having missed out on their earlier vinyl releases*, by not being remotely hip enough, I did pick up Trans Canada Highway by Boards of Canada when it came out in 2006. I knew through hipper friends that they were supposed to be good, but shallow beastie that I am the fact it was on white vinyl and 28 minutes long** is what swung it for me. I really liked the cover too, simple and classy. Now I’ve read that the Boards dudes had both spent time in Canada prior to returning to their native Scotland to form their duo and as well as providing the name for this EP, I think they tap into some of that old Canadian vastness to inform these tunes.
I have a thing for good ambient music and I do like the less discordant side of electronica quite a bit. Boards of Canada touch both of these bases but are something else too. The lead off track ‘Davyan Cowboy’, is just incredible. It is a perfectly judged, perfectly weighted tune, uplifting with a slight minor-key edge. I love the way they use, a heavily treated guitar at the beginning of the track and later at about 2 minutes in when the whole track changes as a drop out to several strums heralds a change from a more percussive beginning to the lush sweeping strings of the second half. Even if you’re not keen on this type of music, give it a go, it really is a perfect exemplar. The video is really rather neat too:
Trans Canada Highway never really meets the quality of its opening track, which is understandable when it is that good. There are two-minute long ambient snippets, ‘Beneath The Coke Sign’ and ‘Heard From Telegraph Lines’ which are okay, a more beat-driven track called ‘Left Side Drive’, which has a dubby Tortoise feel to it^. The final track is ‘Davyan Cowboy (Odd Nosdam)’ mix, again I’m not too sure what an Odd Nosdam is, or how I’d recognize one if I bumped into one in the street. This remix follows the 1537 law of remixes, where the remixer takes everything I loved about the track, bins it and then buggers about with the rest. Actually, that’s maybe a little unfair here as they stretch out and slow the original to a menacing, funereal pace. I mean, it is interesting, but not what I want to listen to.
The original ‘Davyan Cowboy’ though? I’ve been spinning that 4,5 times a day recently.
*most of which were selling for £100+ on eBay recently, not that I’d have sold them anyway.
**a unit of time known hereabouts as a Van Halen II, or VH2.
^Tortoise the band, I have no idea how you’d make a real Tortoise ‘dubby’, or even indeed how it would then feel.