The 1998 album wasn’t the duo’s first – 1996’s Boc Maxima, a super-limited release through their own Music70 label, ran to over 60 minutes. But it saw such a restricted physical run that Music Has… is deemed the group’s de facto debut.
Boc Maxima and its surrounding EPs, 1995’s Twoism and 1996’s Hi Scores, heavily inform this 17-tracker (expanded to 18 on subsequent reissues). Music Has… features no shortage of older material brought up to date – Smokes Quantity first appeared on Twoism.
But Music Has… is better than a mere summary-to-date of Boards of Canada’s music. It works as a brilliant album in its own right, past work reshaped to suit the pair’s (then) present creative mindsets. It doesn’t hurry its way through an hour-plus run time, but never does a track outstay its welcome.
These are deliciously down-tempo arrangements, which, when allowed to stretch to six minutes (An Eagle in Your Mind, Pete Standing Alone), lock the listener into a deep and fantastical daydream.
Appealingly analogue tones caress clinical circuit-board beats; vocal samples slip between bars, beckoning one to journey deeper into the mix. At its most enveloping – Turquoise Hexagon Sun is a chiming delight; Open the Light an ambient amalgam of twinkles and drones – one may hope the dream never ends.
Music Has… occasionally shows its age, exhibiting a handful of trite trip-hop motifs. These skittering, scratchy moments, like the jittery turntables of Sixtyten, are still very accomplished affairs. But they don’t transcend the era of their inception.
Overall, though, Music Has… is a vital piece of electronica history. Its makers sat easily beside Warp stable-mates Squarepusher and Aphex Twin on cursory evaluation; but their approach has always been more oddball than most peers.
A critical hit – nostalgic and at one with nature, yet resolutely future-facing – Music Has… set the scene for Boards of Canada’s later successes. 2002’s Geogaddi reached 21 on the UK album chart, a tremendous result for music that, in the grand scheme, orbits planet pop at a considerable distance.
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I've heard Boards Of Canada described as the sound of electronica that Radiohead's dabble in electronica with Kid A should have been. True to form, guitar loving indie kids have found favour with the likes of Telephasic Workshop, getting lost in the hypnotic rhythms that seem to pulse from a near death BBC Radiophonic Workshop synthesiser. The 'less is more' ideal is at work here, with grinding mechanical hip hop beats and bass set against simple, gentle melodies and splintered samples. The best examples of this being the moody Sixtyten with its relentless, humming bass drum or Turquoise Hexagon Sun's gentle floating keys set against crispy beats and coffee house chatter.
Even though the general mood of the album can be described as melancholic, an icy chill out experience, its not a downbeat affair. The album has soothing short interludes scattered throughout it, the best being the triumphant Roygbiv. One of the shorter tracks off the album, the two minutes that it appears for are blissful and leaves you with a smile on your face. Those searching for a standout 'single' from this could do no worse than to head for the lazy funk of the Hair sampling Aquarius, which will have you chanting 'Orange!' to all your friends.
All in all, its a gorgeous album, read up about it and you'll find that everyone tends to agree on this. Music from the future that somehow manages to stir childhood memories from the past with familiar noises and moods. Its a more comfy affair to curl up inside than more recent efforts from the likes of other Warp artists Aphex Twin, Autechre and Plaid. Give it a blast, just try not to be hooked when the opener, An Eagle In Your Mind, starts to make the hair on your neck stand on end... it did for me and within a few weeks I made sure I owned the rest of the Boards back catalogue.
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