Review Summary: An album worth the 8-year wait.
Marcus Eoin and Michael Sandison do whatever they damn well please – or so it seems. The brothers, better known as the legendarily enigmatic IDM duo Boards of Canada, haven’t released a record in eight years, and it’s felt like a lifetime. They rarely interview, they don’t play live. For most bands, a three year wait between records is considered a lifetime by their impatient fans. But when Boards of Canada decide to ship a new record after a whole eight years of radio silence, there’s no complaining. It is gladly welcomed by it’s fans, and no-one cares that it’s late. Quality rather than quality seems to be the maxim. BoC’s three previous albums have been met with everything from moderate to overwhelming critical success, the group lauded for their excellent quality control.
Tomorrow’s Harvest, allegedly named after a store that specialises in post-natural disaster nutrition (really), arrived under a cloud of mystery now the norm for BoC’s offerings – and the album itself is similarly eerie. Like their previous albums, central themes play on a contrast between playfulness and dread, using distorted and manipulated tape loops to unnerve as well as excite the ear. It channels more of the darkness of 2002′s Geogaddi than the giddy youthful abandon of their 1998 debut, Music Has The Right To Children, likely a by-product of it’s strong post-apocalyptic focus. Even it’s art, a desert with a silhouette of a ghost city laid on top, evokes an often chilling soundtrack to a broken world. Moreover, the record shows a continuation of a group thematically obsessed with mystery and concealment. The duo’s knack for creating truly new sounds paints a picture alien to us as listeners, making Tomorrow’s Harvest often feel like an exercise in discovery. To this end, Tomorrow’s Harvest plays as a cohesive set of soundscapes rather than anything resembling traditional song structures. Though they do borrow a common structure found on their older albums – longer, rhythm-focused tracks distributed between shorter, more ambient interludes – tracks like ‘Nothing Is Real’ and even the single ‘Reach For The Dead’ are much less melodically driven, relying heavily on minimalist progressions across their running time.
Though these sound like huge shifts in the BoC formula, they’re only abundantly noticeable when you’re really looking for them. Ostensibly Tomorrow’s Harvest sticks pretty rigidly to the organic IDM blueprint the group mapped out way back in 1998 – whether it’s the gentle build of ‘Jacquard Causeway’ or the optimism of ’New Seeds’. The deviations really lie in the mood. Tomorrow’s Harvest is doubtlessly the group’s darkest effort to date, tracks like ‘Uritual’ represent a change in approach from a playful curiosity to an unsettling paranoia on the shorter ambient pieces. In many respects, Tomorrow’s Harvest isn’t looking all the way to the apocalypse and after, but merely to the proverbial next day. The dark tone emphasises a turbulent and unsettled world we live in now, and the cautious optimism that litters the record’s latter tracks exemplifying a people dusting themselves down and starting again.
Above all, Tomorrow’s Harvest is everything fans have clamoured for these past eight years: another Boards of Canada album. It typifies a group exploring their boundaries without necessarily venturing too far outside them – then again, when you’ve been building your own luscious IDM playground since 1998, you can’t blame them for wanting to stick around a little while longer.