Upon the announcement of their NTS Radio take over this past weekend, Warp Records scheduled certain hours of exclusive remixes, live performances, and unreleased material from just about every artist on their roster. Some artists curated mixes, others played exclusively new material. However, one name on that schedule did catch the attention of every Warp Records enthusiast.
Scheduled for a two-hour block last Sunday with a program titled “Societas X Tape,” Boards of Canada broadcasted a mixtape of musical influences and what people are claiming to be snippets of unreleased music. Needless to say, given the six-year draught since their last release Tomorrow’s Harvest, their fans were thirsty for new material, remixes, hell, even older material – anything to tie them over, as every BoC fan around the world tuned into NTS Radio that afternoon.
What followed was a certain internet fandom that I felt was long gone, but still very much apparent. All while during the broadcast, BoC listeners hopped onto the Twoism chat forum and Reddit to actively dissect and define each song that was played in real time. There were many songs “shazamed” that afternoon, sometimes yielding results, other times the app was unable to pick up anything at all.
Most of the songs seemed to have a 70s/80s new wave feel, some ambient in tone, but all very avant-garde. However most of these listeners and internet users were keeping their ears out for one thing – unheard Boards of Canada material.
It wasn’t like a sudden revelation when BoC-sounding material played. It took a minute for listeners to bounce ideas and references between each other. It felt akin to communicating with aliens – there were heaps of sounds and noises unfamiliar to us as we hastily sorted through the internet trying to find clues or messages within the song choices, any sign of the band’s footprint at all – the broadcast even began with radio transmission static as if we were receiving distress signals from far away. We listened hard, we digested, we analyzed, but above all else, we appreciated the session, and were somewhat rewarded: every once in a while, when an unfamiliar, BoC-sounding like song came through the speakers, all chat forums paused and listened, wondering if it was an easter egg left behind by the band. No one was certain.
Then, a listener on the message boards would chime in assuringly: “This is them.”
Regardless, even if BoC played new material, that wasn’t the center piece. The main result was that the broadcast was a demonstration of BoC having never lost touch with their fanbase, which is, people who spend far too much time on the internet deciphering things (I included.) They’re the one holy grail that seems virtually untouched by the mainstream media, giving themselves a shade of mystery for their audience to become obsessed with. Even despite a six-year plus absence, their fan base has only gotten more passionate, if not bigger.
And it’s hard not to become enamored by the two Scottish brothers, to the point where some fans can’t even bear to listen to anything else. But in the end, the Societas X Tape was never about new music, it was never about satisfying demands. Rather, it was their touch in saying “Yes, we know you’re hungry for new material, and that’s okay, but here, check out all this other great music that has been made over the years that’s casted a huge influence on us.” But they did so in such a distinct way that could only be BoC, with just a tad more extra-terrestrial.
A six-year long wait that’s only getting longer can be frustrating, and that’s okay. The band understands that. Because they’re still out there, doing their thing. Even if the world may never get to hear what they’re working on, it was special to be invited into their sphere of influences. And if there was any indication of an update last Sunday by way of the mixtape, it’s them saying, “We’re still here.”