When I was writing my previous post about Nine Inch Nail’s LP Year Zero promotional campaign, I thought of how it was all about a fictional world discovered through the internet. I hope that on Fresh On The Net someone may get an idea from these posts that could help their own promotion, even if it’s just a new way to interact with people. I contemplated what would be the opposite style of the Year Zero campaign and thought of Boards of Canada, they had what I would call a more earth-bound method.
It was for the album Tomorrow’s Harvest. Before I start, I think it’s fair to speculate that some of these methods had the band’s PR company pushing bloggers and fans on message boards towards the posts. These things are normally planned out and so to keep the time and momentum of hype up, I think it’s fair to say they are herding the story on. The best sort of PR is when people don’t know that it’s happening.
On the 20th of April 2013, Record Store Day, a 12” vinyl record was put on sale in New York City with only one, 20 second track. It was a six number code, recorded like a Number Station transmission with a brief theme then the numbers read out, and then the record stops.
On the artwork of the record sleeve it said Boards of Canada, then this code –––––– / –––––– / –––––– / XXXXXX / –––––– / –––––– This suggested that the code on that record was the XXXXXX part of the full code. Other records were pressed for other countries. The code from the record was 9 3 6 5 5 7.
When I found this record I was anticipating some sort of unreleased track, which excited me in an almost frightening way (it’s just music… right?). So when I first played the record, needless to say, I was mystified, and in some ways disappointed, but that disappointment would soon disappear. What I got instead, the experience of calling out to the web and watching the internet and its many niche-communities rally to pick apart this puzzle, was something I still haven’t fully wrapped my head around, but I am at any rate incredibly thankful to have been a part of this …thing.
— Quote from Pitchfork
The next code came from a video on YouTube. Posted under Boards Of Canada’s old band name, Hell Interface, a video redirects you to another video on another account. The account was for tarekeys and the video was called Csch. Possibly Shush, as “keep it quiet”. The numbers quoted are 7 1 7 2 2 8. At 40 seconds in the video is the placement reference. Making the collected codes so far: –––––– / –––––– / 717228 / 936557 / –––––– / –––––– /
To much hype on April 23rd, Rough Trade London East sells a copy of code record, sadly it’s the same as the New York copy, with the same code.
The next code was released on BBC Radio 1 after a Jon Hopkins track. The playlist gave the placement code as –––––– / –––––– / –––––– / –––––– / –––––– / XXXXXX and the code transmitted was 5 1 9 2 2 5. Giving the current code: –––––– / –––––– / 717228 / 936557 / –––––– / 519225
America’s National Public Radio transmitted another number station code at the end of the All Songs Considered show: 699742.
The next code was technical. On the Boards of Canada Soundcloud page, two sound files (one, two) were uploaded with artwork of a signal mixer. The file names were ∑ or SUM in mathematical terms, so the idea would be to merge the files. There is a process with audio files where you can invert a sound file and place it over another, and it will take out those frequencies. When this was done with these sound files the number code 6 2 8 3 1 5 could be heard.
The next viral video appeared at a physical place on April 27th, at the Loading Bay Art Gallery, which is located opposite the Rough Trade East London Shop on Dray Walk, Old Truman Brewery. It featured a projected film of driving around the desert and the Warp Logo on the front of the gallery. The audio could be worked out reading the code 6 9 9 7 4 2 with the X’s blanked out in the first section.
Then the same film was transmitted on TV in America on the Adult Swim channel from 9pm until 6am. It is also the same soundtrack to the NPR track.
The last code clue was a technical challenge. It required the recoding of a Base64 code to give a URL for an audio clip. After loading the clip the last numbers where 8 1 3 3 8 6. The full code now being 699742 / 628315 / 717228 / 936557 / 813386 / 519225.
On April 29th all the Boards Of Canada Sites started to point to cosecha-transmisiones.com. If you enter the password with spaces as 699742 628315 717228 936557 813386 519225 it loads up a promotional video with the album artwork at the end — a ghostlike view of San Francisco.
The next day, on the band’s Facebook page, a music video for the single Cosecha Signal One was released. It featured a lot of the footage shown on the 27th at the Art Gallery and later on the Adult Swim Channel. At first it looked like the band where running out of both footage and ideas, but it was only the start of the second phase of interaction with the fans.
A week passed, no other official messages were released and the band looked to have gone quiet. Then on the 21st of May on Facebook the band posted this: “May 22nd 24:00 @ 1-23-10 Jinnan Shibuya-ku Tokyo” It was the location of a street intersection and at midnight on a large TV advertising screen came this video.
On the 23rd of May the band released the single Reach For The Dead. The single’s artwork cover is taken from the video Cosecha Signal One. The song is played on the BBC Radio 1 Zane Lowe show.
On the 27th of May, Hell Interface (the YouTube account that linked to some of the promotional online videos) commented on the video for Reach for the Dead: “May 27th – 17:00 PDT” Then on Twitter the Official Boards of Canada account posted “May 27th – 17:00 PDT” and a picture of the desert with the date on it. The picture was found to be a location on Google Earth.
All of these locations were in the promotional videos of driving around the desert. A is the drive-in theater. B is the gas station. C is the area covered in the tweet regarding May 27th 2013. It turns out this area is for an abandoned water park called “Lake Dolores Rock-a-Hoola Waterpark”. The same day as the location was posted on Twitter, the Hell Interface account uploaded a warped and distorted version of the original parks advert called Look Sad Reel.
At the date and time in the tweets, people turned up to the disused waterpark to find speakers for an album listening party. The video below shows what people travelled to hear. It was just the album played back, not a live performance as some had hoped. Fans were also given promotional leaflets, posters and stickers at the performance. It was live streamed on the band’s website as well.