90s score: 9.5/10
2020 score: 10/10
To refer to the 90s as an era of musical rebellion, and to cite only the Nirvana’s and NWA’s, would be criminal. Yet, one can rarely find albums outside of legacy hip-hop and rock acts on just about any “Best of the 90s” lists. Although electronic music has its roots in ambient acts of the 70s and new-wave bands of the 80s, I want to explore the birth of electronica as it remains a very active movement despite the low-key attitude of its contemporaries. And within said genre, there is simply no act more mythicized than Boards of Canada. So much so, that their musical approach has been imitated non-stop since the release of their 1998 opus Music Has The Right To Children.
This album is so great because it is one of the first of it’s kind to musically incorporate themes of nostalgia and disassociation purely through synthesized instruments and sampled sounds. Tracks such as “Aquarius” and “Roygbiv” have become staples of ambient and intelligent dance music (IDM), a genre that has gone on to infect legendary acts such as Radiohead and The Flaming Lips. Furthermore, Boards of Canada were incorporating elements of the occult, complex mathematics and psychological states a few years before the greatly celebrated Tool and their landmark “intellectual” LP Lateralus. Not only that, but the absence of lyrics and the focus on spatial soundscapes makes it some of the best psychedelia since the flower-power days. Each track falls gracefully into the next without ever disrupting the mood, making for the perfect record to enjoy on more passive mediums such as vinyl or cassette.
I feel like this album is not nearly talked about enough, especially when discussing 90s music that continues to influence artists today. There is no doubt that Boards of Canada were predecessors for underground movements such as vaporwave and trance. Without them, the current age of synthwave revival and neo-psychedelia would not be nearly as prominent or developed in the mainstream. In fact, it seems like ongoing trends such as nostalgia and alternative sounds have only continued to grow over the last 20 years. Although the sounds on Music Has The Right to Children are very much within a unique style, I can’t help but think of this album when discussing the works of current alternative or slightly avant-garde superstars such as Frank Ocean, James Blake, or Blood Orange.
So with all this praise and its influence on today’s artists, it’s hard not to feel like this is a timeless masterpiece. I will say that it’s important to note that trippy, space music is not everyone’s cup of tea, and is by no means good music for a party. This is the soundtrack for those introspective nights, perfect while reading a good book, or focusing on one’s creative output. Get cozy and settle down with Board’s of Canada’s debut, you’re in for a serious chill-out.
Written by Davide Spinato
*Edited by Dominic Abate