Boards of Canada – Boc Maxima

Boards of Canada - Boc Maxima (1996)

Boards of Canada - Boc Maxima (1996)

There is certain appeal that I can’t explain when something seems to be simplistic on every level at first glance, and it’s not until you take a closer look that you start to think otherwise. It takes a whole new dimension, and instead of seeing it as a plain and bland exercise, it becomes some sort of masterpiece in front of your very eyes (or ears, should I say?)

This however doesn’t happen for most of the people. It just takes a look at the reviews of this album on Amazon to be aware of it, most people just won’t get it, and instead will just throw words like gibberish, rubbish, dull, uninspired, bland. And I’m not here to blame them, everyone is entitled to their own opinion and tastes on music after all. I’m here as one of the folks on the other side, those who believe this is one of those very elusive and accomplished albums that very few will have the chance to appreciate.

Pseudo-released back in 1996, about 50 copies of this album were distributed among very close friends and family of the band, so you know it was not meant for public consumption. This interesting detail makes this a very hard and elusive album to find, or at least it was before we could just download it in a couple of minutes from our favorite torrent site. But the point is, the fact that so very few copies were ever made gives this album some sort of aura, it makes you feel fortunate that despite the extremely limited (and let’s not forget, private) release you got to listen to it. And let’s just point out that it’s not the exclusivity thing that makes this special, that is just one of the many interesting aspects of the album.

I actually have been thinking that maybe there are more earlier Boards of Canada private releases that we will never know about, which is very likely given the blurry and secretive way of doing things, something they have done for years. That sole thought is enough to make us appreciate something like Boc Maxima, because it is one of the very few examples of the material that we were actually very lucky to have a chance to listen. If you’re curious, take a look at this article for some controversy relating the grey area involving some purported previous releases by Boards of Canada.

Enough background story for now, there are 20 songs that spans just a little bit under one hour and five minutes, and true to Boards of Canada style, this album does feel a little bit random and without much structure at first, but note that I’m not stating this to imply this as an inherent flaw, it is more like their personal trait to their music. But being completely honest, all that randomness and lack of a more traditional musical structure fades away once you learn the basics to their music. I have to admit that this was not an easy album for me, it took me actually a couple of years of sporadic listens before it started to grow on me, and one thing that helped me was that most of these songs are included in more recent BoC albums, which brought a sense of familiarity to ease the transition to this unofficial release.

The best way to describe what this album means, what this album inspires, what this album represents, we would have to go back to an era when electronic music was done in a more empiric way, where analog was the norm and the mixing process embedded the music with this kind of roughness to it. Also this has experimental written all over it, and for the most part the mood fluctuates from very dark ambient music to some brief moments of playfulness and clarity. It is not strictly speaking drone music also, but your mind might wander through some states that could classify as such during some moments while listening to this.

The most interesting thing about Boc Maxima however is that even though most of these songs are featured in quite a few other later Boards of Canada albums, together here they inspire a very solid experience, blending dark techno with some ambient tunes. The aftertaste will depend on the particular mood you’re on, but it’s surprising that I’ve found myself having feelings of anxiety, claustrophobia and even some mellow episodes while listening to this.

And while this is one of the most intriguing albums I’ve come across, this is as far as I can go describing it, the rest of interpretation and discovery must be done by you. I’m sure I could point a few more features and details but that would take away the fun and excitement of discovering something on your own. Feel free to share your own interpretation or add something you believe I might have missed.