Sometimes, when I’m feeling a little run down, pushed around, and generally beaten up by life I turn to Boards of Canada for a little pick me up. I haven’t quite put my finger on what it is about these Scottish brothers’ brand of electronic music that connects with me, and to be honest I don’t want to know. I’d rather it remain one of those mysteries of the universe, like strange lights in the sky, ghosts, and how someone can find anything remotely appealing about Donald Trump.
I started out with Boards of Canada’s 2013 album Tomorrow’s Harvest. I’ve loved that record since day one and it’s only gotten better to my ears over the last three years. Out of all their records, it has the most consistent mood. Even the title brings visions of some future world where things are desolate and dusty. A sentiment of looking back, trying to find answers for the desperate times that we call the present. It’s like sitting down and looking in a photo album and seeing these people we once knew wearing strange fashions and acting as if they’re having a good time. But are they really? Painted smiles for the camera, or is there honesty in the crow’s feet that form at the tips of the smiles?
Hi Scores is spinning now. A short foray into the beginnings of BoC. This album is described as “ambient techno” and “downtempo”, which I suppose are fitting labels for this collection of six songs. “Everything You Do is Balloon” is a quirky title, but then again so is “Turquoise Hexagon Sun” and”Nlogax”. But “Everything You Do Is A Balloon” paints a picture that is somewhat uplifting. It seems to describe someone that tries to keep their head above water. Always reaching for the sky even when someone keeps dragging them back to earth. It’s whimsical on one hand, and somewhat melancholy, too. The idea that no matter how hard you pull yourself in one direction there’s always someone there to keep you down. Then again, you can also look at it the other way; regardless of your aspirations, there’s someone in your life that will always keep you grounded. Someone that will always make sure you never lose control and float off into the atmosphere.
Or maybe it means none of that. Maybe it doesn’t mean a damn thing.
I think on some level the music on a Boards of Canada album pulls some deeply buried memories out of me. It’s as if this “ambient techno” has been in my head all my life. It’s been that internal soundtrack I would hear late at night lying in my bed, in my bedroom, as I tried falling asleep. The mixture of the TV that mumbled drunkenly through the wall that separated my room from the living room, the floor fan I always had on, as well as the hissing of air and jigsaw ideas in my head. All of those elements would come together and create this sort of bedtime lullaby as I attempted another trip into rem sleep. Sometimes it would work in rapid fashion, while other times I was up well past the silence of sleep coming over the rest of the house. Listening to something like “Nlogax” I’m transported to my grandma’s pontoon as we hit choppy waves on Lake Manitou. I’m reminded of running downstairs with my older brother and our miniature schnauzer Klaus as the tornado alarms were sounding a mere two miles away. That panic tasted like a copper penny and warm milk as we waited helplessly in the cool of that half finished hole in the ground. “June 9th” takes me to a funeral home in Nappanee, Indiana in 1986 to a memorial for my grandpa Hubner. The feeling of being carried along a rapid of reserved emotion. My grandma handing me a head lamp of my grandpa’s he’d use when he’d have to get in the crawlspace of their home. My dad quiet and trying to console his mother.
Of course, these songs didn’t exist when all of these things happened in my life. Yet, they take me to these moments in my life. They act as a wayback machine for me to get into and travel to these weird, autobiographical scenes. They’re really just electronic songs, aren’t they? Aren’t they?
“Seeya Later” is fun and loose. It really does evoke a feeling of someone saying “Seeya later” after a night at the pub and downing one too many pints. Or just a “goodbye” to someone as you leave work for the day. How many times did I say that to my brother, best friend, hell, my own dog as I left to run errands? Lots of times, I bet.
Where do you go when you need to pull yourself out of the doldrums? Is there a friend you talk to? The wife? Play video games with your kid? Lose yourself in a good book? Maybe a flick you can watch that puts you back on a cloud? I think I do a little of all those things, really. I also put on some Boards of Canada. It can be anything, really. Anything by them.
Tonight it was Hi Scores. Thanks guys for coming through for me once again.