BOARDS OF CANADA: HI SCORES (1996)
1) Hi Scores; 2) Turquoise Hexagon Sun; 3) Nlogax; 4) June 9th; 5) Seeya Later; 6) Everything You Do Is A Balloon.
I'd like to say that Hi Scores is not «simply more of the same» as Twoism, but then I could probably create the distorted impression that Hi Scores is not simply more of the same as Twoism, and since I do not work in the field of electronica, I am not used to creating distorted impressions. On the factual plain, however, Hi Scores is definitely distinct because it was the duo's first release on a real music label (Skam Records) — and from that point of view, we can most certainly excuse them for not advancing significantly, given that most people had never heard Twoism, or any of their other limited-edition releases, anyway. In fact, most of the compositions here were not particularly «new»: ʽSeeya Laterʼ is taken directly from Twoism, and others were featured on homemade records with titles like Boc Maxima prior to the label shift.
Even so, a thorough comparison with Twoism does show some subtle shifts. Although Hi Scores is bookmarked by some of the duo's most «becalmed» numbers in existence, the mid-part, in contrast, is harsher: ʽNlogaxʼ and ʽJune 9thʼ constitute a fairly gritty sequence, the former with its hard, harsh, metronomic beat, thumping bass, and schizophrenic vocal overdubs, and the latter with its fussy, space-objects-alert arrangement. This is not necessarily a good thing, because moving away from that calm ambient atmosphere puts them in danger of losing their identity: if you played me ʽJune 9thʼ without a warning, for instance, I'd have said «Aphex Twin?» without blinking. On the other hand, if you don't feel like gently falling asleep to your electronica, Hi Scores is less «lulling» in that aspect than Twoism.
And even so, I have very little to say about the compositions in general. The two first ones have the same ideology as most of Twoism (ambient textures pinned to dance beats, or is that dance beats pinned to ambient textures?), then there's the two dynamic and flurry ones, and then there's ʽSeeya Laterʼ. And then, at the end, there's what probably counts as the magnum opus here, ʽEverything You Do Is A Balloonʼ, if only because it is longer than everything else, it has got a special two-minute beatless introduction, and it shows some melodic development as an additional «lead» melody gradually creeps up on us from out of the shadows. If you want me to admit that the tune may give an impressionist's impression of a balloon gracefully soaring in mid-air, well, it can, but usually for those occasions I tend to pull out my AIR albums instead.
On the whole, this is a nice enough demonstration of creativity, but these days, it is not easy to understand how come Boards of Canada managed to earn the trust of a real record label with this stuff — you'd have to remember that back in the mid-1990s, not a lot of people engaged in these activities, and I guess every label dealing with electronica was more than happy to have their own young, local, and gifted equivalent of Richard D. James on hand. Unfortunately, some of the «formative» stage records tend to date quicker than others, so if you want to understand the continuing reverence for BoC, I would not recommend these early EPs as a starting point; we are really not even properly beginning to get where we're going at this stage. Probably still works as random chillout fodder, though.