Boards of Canada
Jun 11, 2013 Web Exclusive
Honestly, you probably already know if you like Tomorrow's Harvest, the new album from Scottish brother-duo Boards of Canada. That's partly a testament to the band's towering previous achievements—they frequently disappear for years between releases, only to suddenly put out music that ends up near the top of every year-end list. Their sort-of debut album, Music Has the Right to Children, is widely regarded as a classic of the genre, and its follow-ups Geogaddi and The Campfire Headphase were universally praised.
But you'll also know if you like Tomorrow's Harvest because it is unmistakably a Boards of Canada album. It might be their first new music in seven years, but it's also instantly familiar-as soon as you hear those woozy synths and impossibly warped sounds, you know it can't be any other band. Each song retains a signature sort of warbling Instagrammed tones-sort of like the soundtrack to a VHS tape that has seen better days.
Tomorrow's Harvest lacks some of the more overt moments of accessibility that were favorites on previous Boards releases—there's no "Roygbiv" or "Dayvan Cowboy" among these new tracks. The closest thing is the clattering "Sick Times" or the cyclical "Nothing Is Real," but neither of those approaches anything resembling pop music. Instead, Harvest opts for a more uniform feeling. Songs such as "Reach for the Dead" and "Cold Earth" are slow burns, each more notable for slow shifts in mood rather than any kind of instrumental hijinks. Some of the shorter, more interstitial songs ("Transmisiones Ferox," "Collapse," "Uritual," "Telepath") are much more on the ambient spectrum of electronica than anything resembling dance or house music.
The sounds on Tomorrow's Harvest also seem, in general, less organic than on The Campfire Headphase. Gone are the shattered acoustic guitars that made up many of Headphase's most memorable moments. In their place are arrhythmic snare drums and keys ("Jacquard Causeway"), dubby synth sounds ("Palace Posy"), and even a little 8-bit music ("Collapse"). It's damaged-sounding music that manages to be beautiful nonetheless.
Overall, what stands out about Harvest isn't a single track-it's that the entire album seems like a carefully crafted whole. That's not to say that other Boards albums haven't been cohesive-quite the opposite. Harvest simply manages to create a tone from the opening, late-night-infomercial-sounding sample and keep that tone for an hour. It might not be a major leap forward for Boards of Canada, but when the music continues to be so obviously them, maybe Tomorrow's Harvest doesn't need to be. (www.boardsofcanada.com)
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