Boards of Canada / Shrift
Trans Canada Highway EP / Shrift Remixed EP
C+ / C-
ayvan Cowboy” undoubtedly frames Boards of Canada’s newest EP. Also the first single from The Campfire Headphase, it marks a shift towards more typical meter and melody for the duo; the electric guitars impart a more immediate attachment to the music. The uncharacteristic orchestral loop they use creates a very effective, albeit facile, ease to the piece. It’s no wonder that the accompanying video is a pastiche of earthy blues and whites—bodies seemingly tumbling from the sky and dancing on the ocean.
“Left Side Drive” will initially feel like a disappointing follower, but that’s primarily because of the strength of “Dayvan” itself, which emerges strongest even on the LP. But even with that song excepted, “Left Side Drive” is an obvious B-side. All of Campfire Headphase was of rather rudimentary construction when compared to the rest of their work, and when there weren’t any noticeable peaks on a song then the simplicity leapt out into the foreground. Some said this simplistic aesthetic imperiled Campfire because there weren’t as many layers to peel back, but the group was smart enough to avoid wading in obsolete beatmaking. “84 Pontiac Dream” and “Hey Saturday Sun” are sturdy examples of their sapience—though both more minimalist than other tracks on the LP, they are in no way thin.
“Left Side Drive” is copasetic enough but not really as intelligent. Many listeners like BoC because they seem to infuse every beat, sample, and loop with an ineffable human dimension. “Left Side” merely peaks at a constant mood, neither bending nor segueing into a differing emotional piece (no doubt the problem the two short pieces, “Under the Coke Sign” and “Heard From Telegraph Lines,” attempt to remedy). “Skyliner” is more colorful, but just as static; the percussion and synths are busier, but it would still be thoroughly aberrant on Campfire. Finally, the Odd Nosdam mix is an unnecessary addition altogether, its 9-minute track length filled mostly with annoying empty space and what actually exists ineffectually remakes the beautiful original.
Faulty remixing becomes a larger problem for Shrift’s Remixed EP, which features mixes of four songs from the outstanding Lost in a Moment LP. Some of the artists try to be delicate with the pieces, but only end up with topical differences that contribute very little. Relying too heavily on loops and tiny keyboard additions, the Outrun mix of “To the Floor” is dumbed down to accommodate any generic lounge compilation. Nina Miranda doesn’t have a voice for the dance floor: it’s too soft and supple, and even the most attentive listener can hardly determine when she sings and when she whispers. Da Lata’s mix of “As Far as I Can See” is smarter by beefing up the percussion in the original and limiting Miranda’s voice for the most part, but when it’s used and sped up for the chorus it feels like a major sleight of hand.
The next two remixes are the most precise display of remixing failures given the nature of the originals. Both “Lost in a Moment” and “Yes I Love You” are predominantly ambient in tone and construction and the Strange Worlds’ mix of the former, while not necessarily bad on its own, saps the emotional emphasis. The mix of “Yes I Love You” tries admirably to stick to the spirit of the original, but doesn’t build as poignantly and instead wades in a cloud of ambience whereas the original made you feel like you were actually on one.
The two EPs here are disappointing for different reasons. Boards of Canada simply need more room for their ideas to develop, and the songs on Trans Canada Highway feel like partial revelations of a far bigger structure. The Shrift Remixed EP doesn’t need to exist at all, but does only because Shrift are electronic musicians. The mixes there attempt to take an extremely delicate, surprisingly complex, and brittle original and stretch it beyond its capabilities. While both are different musicians, Boards of Canada and Shrift share the same ground for producing optimal work that should be neither truncated nor reconstructed.
Reviewed by: Ayo Jegede
Reviewed on: 2006-06-19