I was probably a bit too harsh when I reviewed ‘The Campfire Headphase‘ last year. Although I feel like it was a disappointing album, I still listened to it quite a lot. However, I still derive more satisfaction from listening to ‘Geogaddi‘. Anyway, the question was, could Boards of Canada redeem themselves with their new EP, Trans Canada Highway? The answer is, kind of.
The title and the wonderful artwork appear to be a cheeky homage to Kraftwerk. This nod towards the pioneers of electronic music is mirrored in the music. The guitars have taken a back seat, apart from on the opening track, ‘Dayvan Cowboy’, which was a standout track from ‘The Campfire Headphase’.
Leaving Dayvan aside then, what does the music have in store? ‘Left Side Drive’ is a slow-paced track with slightly creepy synths and an uneasy drumbeat. It is quite similar in style and mood to the ‘In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country‘ EP; particularly reminiscent of ‘Kid for Today’. It is a nice track, but nothing too spectacular.
‘Heard From Telegraph Lines’ is much more like it. There is nothing to this track — it is simple and short, but it really hits the spot. A gentle ambient warble which wouldn’t seem too out of place on this thing. The other short track, ‘Under The Coke Sign’, feels a bit pointless frankly. It is almost identical to ‘Olson’ from ‘Music Has the Right to Children‘. I’m not sure why they bothered including this track at all.
‘Skyliner’ was the track which was pushed by Warp the most. It is probably the standout track on the EP. A harsh synth with a purpose announces itself, and is joined by an interesting beat. The track eventually develops into something not too dissimilar to ‘Dayvan Cowboy’, with similar madcap drumming towards the end. It’s quite a fun listen.
The EP ends with a remix of ‘Dayvan Cowboy’ by Odd Nosdam. It ends up being the highlight of the EP. It feels a bit like payback for the time Boards of Canada managed to upstage an entire cLOUDDEAD album. The remix splits into three sections, mostly made up of ambienty drones. You can only just about hear flashes of the original track. It is fabulous though — top marks to Odd Nosdam.
If you’re quick off the mark you might get a DVD featuring Boards of Canada’s first ever publicly-released video, for ‘Dayvan Cowboy’ naturally. It features a man (presumed to be stock footage of Joseph Kittinger) diving to earth from space, who upon landing in the ocean emerges on a surfboard. I like the first part of the video, the part set in space. It reminds me a lot of the late-night Channel 4 programme, ‘The Trip’, which set lots of archive footage of anything to trippy late-night style music. Good stuff. I’m not so sure about the surfing bits — it feels a bit like ‘how many cliches can we fit in’. But the video as a whole has quite a nice BOC feel. A great first video for them.
Overall, I am quite happy with this EP. It might not be anything groundbreaking or amazing, but at least it isn’t a disappointment like ‘The Campfire Headphase’, so there are grounds for optimism here.
- Dayvan Cowboy video
- Dayvan Cowboy trailer — NSFW
- Boards of Canada official website
- Warp Records
- Fredd-E’s unofficial Boards of Canada resource pages