A Beautiful Place in Your Headphones
Back in 2005, we wrapped our review of Boards of Canada’s The Campfire Headphase by calling it the end of a trilogy of albums suggesting the life cycle: birth, growth, death. Eight years later, Scotland’s Sandison brothers present Tomorrow’s Harvest not merely to resurrect their wobbly, yellowed electronic sounds for their rabid fanbase, but to call those noises forth much like a medium beckons angered poltergeists.
In the 15 years since the release of Music Has The Right to Children, Boards of Canada have quietly become the yardstick against which other acts are measured. Tomorrow’s Harvest, however, is the first BoC release with serious and obvious influences from elsewhere. It’s music clearly touched by breathy horror and suspense soundtracks—think Halloween, think The Terminator— as well as some of the heftier grooves scattered through Brian Eno’s career.
This isn’t weakness, though; it gives the music purpose, making Tomorrow’s Harvest the loudest, most aggressive Boards of Canada album yet. The duo commit to tape some of their most insistent rhythms, such as those found in the spooky, stuttering “Come to Dust” and the metallic echoes of “Jacquard Causeway.” Elsewhere, the boys also remind us of their love for minor keys (“Cold Earth”) and tuned noise (“Uritual”). Frankly, there’s seems to be a distinct feeling of dread on songs like “Palace Posy,” which no doubt draw from their heretofore darkest chapter, Geogaddi.
Clearly, Boards of Canada are using Harvest to imbue modes from albums past with new breath, as hints of the mesmerizing interludes that had disappeared on The Campfire Headphase return here, found in moments like the TV station-style bumper intro of “Gemini,” as well as the numbers-station count-up of “Telepath.” As that album’s complex, supple songcraft bleeds into a track like “New Seeds,” the soothing “Nothing is Real” moves as if it could have fit perfectly on Children. Now, you would normally discuss Boards of Canada not in terms of how they sound or whom they sound like, but in terms of feeling, and though we have to acknowledge the retrospective and the derivative nature of Tomorrow’s Harvest, the album nonetheless conveys an energy which ebbs and flows in ways not yet encountered by BoC’s fans and followers.