In April 1998, a little-known duo of Scottish musicians with a rather inscrutable moniker — ‘Boards of Canada’ — laid the foundation for what has come to be one of the most enduring legacies in modern electronic music. On the 20th of that month, Marcus Eoin and Mike Sandison released an album called Music Has The Right to Children, which turns an exact 20 years old this Friday.
There’s little one can say about MHTRTC that hasn’t already been said, and this in part is testament to the indelible footprint it has left on listeners over the last two decades. From serious music critics to casual bloggers and rabid fans, we’ve all taken a shot at trying to convey the true depth and meaning of this album. If we’re being honest, our attempts have been failures. To state what is painfully obvious, MHTRTC is a work of art that defies description. Still, it’s worth another shot.
Like most great pieces of music, MHTRTC’s success lies in its ability to merge seemingly polar aesthetics. It is happy-sad and retro-futuristic; chilling on the ears but warm on the heart… brimming with hope but not without an undercurrent of crippling anxiety lurking beneath it’s hazy analogue tones. It offers you the option of tuning in and being mindful, or tuning out and dissociating yourself from the world entirely. There is a clinical temporality to it, but it also somehow appeals to our more intuitive spirits. Boards of Canada did something truly remarkable with this album: they took raw electronic signals and shaped them into psychedelic cue-cards that will keep us engaged for the rest of our lives.
Unlike the more cerebral, braindance-ey sort of IDM that was coming out of the UK in the 90s – think Autechre and Squarepusher and their several likenesses – Boards of Canada succeeded in de-intellectualising a genre and opening its doors to a wider audience. Instead of mind-numbingly complicated rhythms, the Sandison brothers combined deceptively simple songwriting with an expansive soundscape, touching upon a formula which managed to evoke emotions that electronic music had so far been unable to tap into. The genius of MHTRTC isn’t so much in its technical prowess, it is in the nature of the sound itself. You can almost touch and taste it. It has texture and temperature… an almost Dionysiac sensuality. No wonder it is hailed as a touchstone of psychedelic culture.
The world has changed a hell of a lot in the last two decades. We know that music certainly has. Yet Boards of Canada, and this album in particular, continue to exist in a vacuum. Far from losing their place in the echelons of music, as so many albums and artistes are wont to do, they continue to gain even more relevance with each passing day. It’s 2018, and with all of the chaos that music consumption has become, we can be sure that there will never be anything like this again. And that’s why the 20th anniversary of Music Has the Right to Children is such a big deal.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the album we’re hosting a vinyl listening session on Friday, 4/20 at Levi’s Lounge, Todi Mills, Lower Parel. Register for the event at www.sagebombay.com
Words by Prayag Arora Desai.