Arts blog: Boards of Canada | Bonfest

Bon Scott lead singer for the band AC/DC with Angus Young. Picture: Getty
Bon Scott lead singer for the band AC/DC with Angus Young. Picture: Getty
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AT time of writing, two of the most inventively staged viral music marketing campaigns of the year are reaching their endgame.

It’s appropriate – or perhaps inevitable – that both involve shadowy electronic duos, because what used to be called hype is no longer built upon layers of big budget advertising, beat-pounding media appearances and watercooler word of mouth. Now, to separate themselves from the dramatic churn rate of new releases funnelling through iTunes or Spotify, an artist needs to whip up a storm of Likes and links and shares and blog mentions.

The two pairs of artists couldn’t be more different, but both campaigns trade off certain unifying factors – namely, that absence makes the heart grow fonder and that giving people only a little of what they want makes them hungrier for more.

In one corner, and with major label backing and enough of a reputation to get the ordinary guy or girl in the street interested, we have Daft Punk, whose campaign was founded upon sparingly sneaked details of a host of eclectic collaborators (including disco icon Giorgio Moroder, the Strokes’ Julian Casablancas, Chic’s Nile Rodgers and NERD’s Pharrell Williams) and a teasing had-it-or-hadn’t-it-been-leaked? saga which attained a viral life of its own.

In the other, far less heralded, corner, we have two brothers from Edinburgh who make a distinctive and imagination-capturing brand of ambient analogue electronica in their studio in the Pentlands, and who haven’t released a record of their own since the Trans Canada Highway EP in 2006. It’s Boards of Canada’s campaign which deserves to catch the attention more, partly because they’re what no observer might reasonably call anything other than a niche band.

Their first two albums in particular (1998’s Music Has the Right to Children and 2002’s Geogaddi) shifted them from the supposed hobbyist ghetto of leftfield electronics and into the alternative mainstream – their songs have been used on the soundtracks of Spaced, Skins and Top Gear, by way of an eclectic body of evidence. Yet the audacious way they announced their new album has got people talking about it, first by quietly unveiling a new, password-protected website, and then by hiding the six chunks of password code like breadcrumbs around the reaches of pop culture.

The first was recorded on a limited edition piece of Record Store Day vinyl; the rest displayed on a YouTube video, announced on Radio One, shown in a commercial on the Cartoon Network. The password, when used, unlocked a site which told us Tomorrow’s Harvest will be out on 10 June, all the more hotly anticipated because even those of us who followed the story online felt as if we’d been made to work that bit harder. We can’t wait to hear it.
l Tomorrow’s Harvest by Boards of Canada is released on 10 June by Warp Records. Random Access Memories by Daft Punk is released on 20 May by Daft Life/Columbia.


The market town of Kirriemuir is justifiably famous for its delectable gingerbread, equally celebrated as the birthplace of Peter Pan creator JM Barrie and known to pub quiz teams across the land as the false provenance of actor David Niven. But none of these exports quite stirs the blood like the memory of dear departed AC/DC frontman Bon Scott.

Ronald Belford Scott lived in Kirriemuir until his family emigrated to Australia when he was six years old and the town has sealed its standing as a place of pilgrimage for the past seven years by staging Bonfest, an excellent excuse for AC/DC fans from around the world to converge on the “wee red toon”, salute the rocking legacy of the man for whom the term “headbanger” could have been invented, and drink a lot of AC/DC’s own brand beer, specially imported for the occasion.

This weekend the eighth annual Bonfest will be headlined by AC/DC tribute troupes from Italy and Germany. Italian band Buon Scotch plan to recreate the It’s A Long Way To The Top video on the back of an open top lorry, with the streets of Kirriemuir as a modest substitute for Melbourne. As of yet, Sunday headliners Bon The AC/DC Show have not intimated the precise nature of their tribute but, as the gods of rock surely know, there are plenty of Bon exploits ripe for remembrance.

Mostly, though, Bonfest simply seeks to uphold the spirit of this beloved local son. Scott ultimately became a classic rock casualty, dying young after a typically enthusiastic night on the sauce, but he was a stellar frontman – as well as a keen bagpiper – who succeeded in honouring his roots as well as crossing borders with his primal music.

Following his death in 1980, his bandmates paid tribute to Scott on subsequent album Back In Black, which went on to become the second best-selling album of all time, after Thriller.

As for local memorials, the inaugural Bonfest kicked off with the unveiling of a Bon Scott plaque and this year organisers DD8 Music are launching plans to erect a lifesize bronze statue, to be fan-funded through Kickstarter. Kirriemuir already has a statue of Peter Pan – maybe it’s time for another ageless lost boy to join him.