Boards of Canada, ‘Tomorrow’s Harvest’ – Album Review
It’s been long enough since U.K. electronic music pioneers Boards of Canada’s last album, 2005’s 'The Campfire Headphase,' that the duo has achieved classic status. BoC haven't been part of the cultural conversation for nearly a decade, but in a year fraught with heavyweight comebacks, theirs is one of the most graceful to touch down. The announcement of their fourth LP, 'Tomorrow’s Harvest,' was met with neither the pained relief that came with My Bloody Valentine’s 'mbv' nor the fevered, antagonistic anticipation of the Knife’s 'Shaking the Habitual' or Daft Punk’s 'Random Access Memories.' BoC has nothing left to prove, which makes it all the more surprising that the most stunning thing about 'Tomorrow’s Harvest' is how vital and progressive BoC’s sound still sounds all these years later.
That’s not to say the duo are retracing their steps, though 'Tomorrow’s Harvest' is exceedingly identifiable as a BoC album. Still, it’s the closest Mike Sandison and Marcus Eoin have come to making outright synth music instead of just recontextualizing it. 'Tomorrow’s Harvest' is the duo’s most atmospherically dense record, and it’s also their most frank. While 1998’s 'Music Has The Right To Children' and 2002’s 'Geogaddi,' were held together by '90s electronic production philosophies and '70s lifestyle nostalgia, this one doesn’t carry as much subtext. Instead, BoC builds on the sonic pallet they're known for and construct something more ethereal and intangible.
The new material skews closer to classic clenched Warp IDM than the melancholy downtempo of their previous records. But it would still work perfectly as a soundtrack to a '70s sci-fi film. 'Gemini' opens with some glacial, arcing synths, evoking a desolate alien planet at sunrise, before malevolent slasher-flick bass tones claw their way in. 'Reach For the Dead' slams in with a sagging robotic synth before moving onto a vast melodic plane, bits crunchy programming falling into place like metallic debris.
'Tomorrow’s Harvest' doesn’t have any standout tracks. Instead it works as a full cohesive document, like a more abstract mosaic of BoC's aesthetics stretched widescreen. It moves seamlessly from ambient synth tones and arpeggios to beats and back again. Previous records had tracks easy to single out, with more traditional structures, but this latest collection relies on the album format to hold it all together. It takes a while to sink in, and it’s perhaps better to let it just wash over you than to grasp at what’s there.
But it works. The duo have managed to hold onto their sound while spinning it into something with a little more depth and longitude. We couldn’t have hoped for better.