Boards of Canada - Trans Canada Highway EP

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  • Boards of Canada's first two albums struck a chord with many electronica heads, combining Digipak rhythm tracks with late sixties synths played through thirty years of accumulated stylus fluff. The Boards also have a good ear for a plangent melody, adding to the strange, sad sense of nostalgia that suffuses their music. Basically the band remind a certain generation of their seventies childhoods, and of the music playing on the nature documentaries that they watched when they were off school sick. The Boards sound like they could have been made at the Dr. Who soundtracking BBC Radiophonic Workshop (if its staff had all been massive potheads). The group's artwork and song titles also play up this haze of nostalgia. On this new EP, however, BOC seem to be reaching towards a new, more focused sound. Opener ‘Davyan Cowboy’, a track from the last Boards' album ‘The Campfire Headphase’, dispenses with ethereality in favour of a euphonious chime of fuzzed and chorused guitar Americana. It's a rainbow hued, psych-rock instrumental rather than the parched, monochrome ambience of old, and could almost be said to be catchy. However, is conventional catchiness really what us Boards fans want? The other tracks on the EP are more traditionally BOC in their approach, although all reflect the American theme of the collection. ‘Under the Coke Sign’ and ‘Seen the Telegraph Lines’ are minute-length ambient interludes typical of their sound: drifting wafts of out-of-focus synth vapour that evaporate before you realise they are there, like an eagle disappearing into a blue cloudless sky above the unending ribbon of an American freeway. ‘Left Side Drive’ is also more like the Boards of Canada we know and love. A sweet chord sequence beams down from the upper troposphere whilst mid-tempo, electronic shuffle rhythms slowly divulge their complexity, welcoming us to BOC's thousand subtle shades of grey. Finally, there's a remix of ‘Davyan Cowboy’ by Odds Nosdam from the extremely weird and experimental American rap outfit cLOUDDEAD (at least I think that's the correct combination of upper and lowercase letters). Odds takes the original mix and sheathes it in an out of focus, sparkly haze, ironically making it sound more like a Boards of Canada track than the original does. After a few minutes, the whole mix collapses into a long, striated drone which lasts until the end of the track. BOC are in transition on this one. Time will tell if this new direction spans gloriously like the highway or is just a musical cul-de-sac.