Boards of Canada – Music Has The Right To Children

Originally released 20th April 1998. First version of this review originally published April 1st, 2007.

Author’s note – Whilst this is a record which I love, on looking back the words I wrote about it in 2006 were I felt not really adequate to convey it’s beauty and darkness. Rather than re-write it entirely, some of the passages very attendant to the era have been removed and references to release anniversaries (Very obviously ..”coming up on ten years”..) have been changed.

By the late 90’s we were all familiar with the concept: dance music you couldn’t dance to. The Warp label’s seminal Artificial Intelligence series, released at the start of the decade had already faithfully mapped the sub genre and cemented the reputations of luminaries such as Autechre, The Black Dog and Richard D James with an audience wider than the previous ‘spotter diaspora, a cabal who even prior to that had used their spare time in obsessively mining poky subterranean independent record shops for Belgian issued only 10 inch System 7 EPs.

Latterly revealed as brothers, Marcus Eoin and Mike Sandison’s blend of post coital ambient trip-folk had already been exposed to the world on earlier mini albums Twoism and Hi-Scores, but their earlier back catalogue had already passed into the stuff of legend, supposedly made up of items so rare public copies were unavailable. Fittingly then, it was Warp themselves who pronounced the death of their own intelligent movement with the release of the Scottish duo’s epochal – yes, epochal – Music Has The Right To Children.

With an almost fetishistic use of analogue equipment, simultaneous dream and nightmare textures blended with heavily processed found sounds (See if you can hear  a sequence lifted from Sesame Street), MHTRTC was a long overdue sea-change for a sound in a cul-de-sac, exorcising the embarrassing ghost of rave and in it’s gloriously recherché sound creating a template that a posse of imitators have referenced to varying degrees from oblique nod to semi cover version in the near two decades since it’s release. Beats chug, disembodied voices carry, somnambulant washes rise and fall apparently in a state of drug induced hypnosis and the endless doctoring removes the root ethic of the sounds, but then renders them back into something  intrinsically familiar. The textures are hardly unique, reflecting the proto ambient early works of Brian Eno and Tangerine Dream, drawing heavily from the era when “new age” music slowly emerged from hippiedom, rather than the Detroitisms that fuelled what went before. That it doesn’t disappear completely up it’s own arse is testimony to it’s powerful beguilement – MHTRTC works in a very strange and unique way and was recorded to be loved or hated – but despite the obvious darkness, it’s got a warmth and off-kilter sense of humour that most of Eoin and Sandison’s copyright infringing admirers couldn’t reproduce if they owned a synthesiser factory.

Now recognised as a benchmark in electronic music, the mysticism which envelops the Sandison’s work has been long submerged in cultish devotion, but this album remains the defining moment at which man took back his music from the machine.

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