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Boards of Canada’s Hi Scores

Light on the Shore @ Leith Theatre
Five stars

The chairs are out for the penultimate Leith Theatre show as part of Edinburgh International Festival’s Light on the Shore series. This is one indicator of just how seriously this reimagining of Edinburgh-sired electronic duo Boards of Canada’s 1996 EP, Hi Scores, by Berlin-based contemporary classical collective, Stargaze, is being taken. In the unlikely event that Boards of Canada’s Mike Sandison and Marcus Eoin will show faces themselves since their last live outing in 2001, this is something that Stargaze’s twelve-piece ensemble duly take advantage of.

Utilising French horn, oboe, flute and clarinet to play the melodies of the EP’s six tracks alongside strings, guitar, percussion and double bass, Stargaze add a flesh and blood warmth and wit to the tracks. Given that synthesisers were originally designed to emulate the sounds of ‘real’ instruments, such a reinvention brings things full circle. At one point some of the record’s shuffles are recreated first by the clarinettist making meticulously timed tears in a newspaper. Another moment sees one of the string players sweep the floor with a broom.

The arrangements may be playfully elaborate, but there is a surprising amount of funk there too, so at times the formerly squelch-driven Nlogax sounds somewhere between Isaac Hayes and Steve Reich. This would work just as well deal in a late-night club environment as it does in the show’s allotted teatime slot.

The night closes with a sublime take on Olson, from BOC’s full-length 1998 album, Music Has the Right to Children. This sees the band put down their instruments and line up at the front of the stage one by one as they build the piece’s already meditative air into a vocal harmony they gently encourage the audience to take part in. If by any chance Boards of Canada were in attendance, they might have been amazed by the result.

The Herald, August 27th 2018



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