Enigmatic musicians are a dying breed, but Scottish duo Marcus Eoin and Michael Sandison, better known as Boards of Canada, never play live and are rarely seen or heard of. Therefore, it is a rare treat for Boards fans that Edinburgh International Festival hosts an interpretation of the cult-duo’s 1996 record Hi Scores at Leith Theatre, performed by s t a r g a z e; a dozen classically-trained musicians from across Europe, led by composer Andre de Ridder.
Anticipation creaks in the floorboards as the auditorium fills and the entourage takes up position behind sheet music stands on stage.
With only six tracks on Hi Scores, the hour-long set is swift but savoured by those lucky enough to attend. Opening with the title track, the orchestral collective quickly evince how a record built on computers will be translated into a live spectacle with members using egg shakers, tearing shreds of paper, and using penny whistles to instantiate feedback.
The mellow funk of Seeya Later is achieved using handclaps, clarinet over double bass grooves, and ascending strings. Quirks are a beguiling spectacle of the s t a r g a z e live performance, and the employment of a reversed-tuba as a reverberating microphone is a quick-witted use of a traditional instrument.
Equally so, sweeping a broom in a discoid direction on Turquoise Hexagon Sun, which would later be included on their Boc Maxima record, is a charming and theatrical way of replicating the original record’s sound.
Social media and conversation inside the hall suggest that many attendees are hopeful that Boards would be in attendance. Even composer de Ridder quips what a joy it is to bring their music to life and that “you may even be here – we hope you enjoy (the performance)”.
Alas, the emotional soundscapes and disjointed wistfulness appearing on tracks such as Everything You Do Is A Balloon remain firmly in the hands of tonight’s interpreters, but what a joy it is to hear these songs outside of our own personal domains.
Blending xylophones and saxophone, the edgy, cascading tones of June 9th rounds off the short, impactive set.
However, after an encore of three further songs, including Happy Cycling and Olson from the Music Has The Right To Children album, the stage lights dim on the latter track and star-shaped projections appear on the ceiling. Each musician singly departs their instrument to lead the audience from the front in a gentle cradle song.
This soothing accompaniment is a tranquil way to conclude the evening’s performance. Hi Scores, high praise, standing ovation.