Music has the right to children is essentially an album that runs cold. An album that you enjoy alone. There are definitely moments of warmth, in tracks like Olson and Open the Light; undeniable moments where we hear the twirling, membranous, lighter side of Boards of Canada’s discography. But these are dwarfed by the daunting, looming chords of tracks like Pete Standing Alone, or the juddered drum samples of tracks like Rue the Whirl and Sixtyten. The overarching feeling is one of the exploration of the darker places of the unconscious mind, and be they happy or sad, they are all strangely detached and palimpsestic..
It is for this reason that it seemed strange and out of sorts that the job of interpreting the songs and sounds of the album on its twentieth anniversary had been undertaken by Byron Wallen, an extremely talented British Jazz Musician known for breathing life into ensembles. However, this recreation proved to be an opportunity, too intriguing to pass up.
A support act preceded Byron Wallen and his gang. A lone man on a series of bowed and stringed instruments, along with a shoddy tape deck sampler. A fitting prologue for the performance to come. An ode to those moments where the tape reel jams. Or maybe a bow accidentally falls on an open string. It is these moments of incidental melody that matter. As this is where so many songs of Boards of Canada’s lie.
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Byron and his band (Made up of 3 gamelan drummers, a bassist, keyboardist and a drummer) have to keep ridiculously tight and in sync for every second of the performance. They play off each other constantly. Their timing, the velocity of their notes and the transition which they make all need to be incredibly precise. After many listens to the album, one could be forgiven for thinking that the music is very incidental, but it kept 12 incredibly experienced musicians very busy for the runtime of the performance.
A spirit was breathed into those melodies that seem so cold and adrift on the album. Byron himself provided a warmth and soul on the trumpet. This helped guide the listener through the intimidating avenues of each song. At some points his trumpets cry curled and stumbled like a drunken man crooning down a dark alley, at other points it sounded esteemed and confident in its unfaltering step. His performance instilled a sincerity into proceedings that allowed these haunting melodies to be swallowed comfortably, sometimes without even a nod to the feelings of loneliness and isolation that they often create.
The Gamelan throughout a selection of the songsoffered a different auditory experience on. The instrument truly is on another plane to those we are familiar with. The scales from other countries can often seem alien and dissonant to the Western listener. However, those that listen to Boards of Canada are able to bridge that gap, as Marcus and Michael have pushed them to many a time before.
The interpretation of these much loved songs was a treat for those listening, as well as an impressive selection of original songs Byron said he composed as rebuttals and odes to the album.