No electronic composers affect me quite like Boards Of Canada. With but a few notes the Scottish duo can fill me with loneliness, nostalgia, dread, or a mixture of all three. Since their 1998 debut Music Has The Right To Children they have maintained a distinctive sonic aesthetic; their sound is of lonely keyboard melodies, soft-focus synths and alien vocal samples, all presented in a polaroid-like haze. Music Has The Right To Children was an album of ambient electronica laced with the laughter of android children, a record at once euphoric and deeply unsettling. The style of melody was reminiscent of 80s science documentaries (the “this... is Mars” variety), while its percussion drew from hip-hop. Sophomore Geogaddi proved a far more sinister record than its predecessor; inspect any of its songs close enough and you'll find the devil staring back. Third LP The Campfire Headphase attempted to recreate the serenity of Music Has The Right To Children with the introduction of acoustic guitars, but the result wasn't nearly as coherent or unique. On new album Tomorrow's Harvest, the duo avoid making the same backwards-looking mistake by taking their sound and looking towards the horizon.
Tomorrow's Harvest is by some distance the darkest Boards Of Canada album, built around the concept of Earth after a nuclear war. Its promotional videos showed shots of barren deserts and abandoned buildings; whether the album cover is a warhead detonating over modern-day San Francisco or the sun piercing its irradiated ruins in the future is irrelevant. Listening to it feels like wandering around the rubble of the 21st Century, your radio picking up snippets of distress signals and radiation-distorted music. Its songs are sparser and more desolate than Boards Of Canada's previous work, beautifully capturing the loneliness of a post-apocalyptic world.
Despite some stunning results, this stride into more ambient territory is both a plus and a minus. Compared to the intimate, womb-like nature of Music Has The Right To Children and Geogaddi, the cinematic Tomorrow's Harvest feels a little agoraphobic. Though there is beauty in its wide, haunted spaces, they don't feel as precious as the biosphere of Children or Geogaddi's cocoon.
But even if Tomorrow's Harvest lacks the warmth of their earlier material, in a number of other ways it surpasses it. Boards Of Canada have never constructed their songs with such attention to detail; chuck on a pair of headphones and lose yourself in the shimmering layers of 'Cold Earth', 'Nothing Is Real' or the sublime 'New Seeds.' The album also has a beautiful sense of momentum, beginning in the pulsing mirage of 'Reach For The Dead' and culminating in the epic 'Come To Dust.' Where previous BoC records were content to simply breeze along, Tomorrow's Harvest swells and soars like a film soundtrack.
It may not be the isolated listening experience of, say, Geogaddi, which currently stands as my favourite electronic album of all time. But Tomorrow's Harvest is Boards Of Canada's most impressive and dramatic release yet, one which will undoubtedly continue to grow on me. Take its ghostly soundscapes as a warning of the lifeless world we're currently escalating towards. For the seeds we sow today will be reaped in tomorrow's harvest.
Take its ghostly soundscapes as a warning of the lifeless world we're currently escalating towards
that's a little dramatic. i don't hear all of this supposed subtext that you're all gushing over, just an incredibly monotonous album. seems kind of weird to call something this light and directionless/nondescript their most impressive and dramatic release. speaking compositionally, music has the right, geogaddi, and campfire are all way more interesting and multifaceted
On Geogaddi the style of melody is way warmer and more playful in my opinion (notwithstanding the creepy atmosphere), 1969 or Julie and Candy or Dawn Chorus can attest that. Other than the red herring at the beginning of Gemini, Tomorrow's Harvest is consistently melancholy
"an incredibly monotonous album... seems kind of weird to call something this light and directionless/nondescript their most impressive and dramatic release... speaking compositionally, music has the right, geogaddi, and campfire are all way more interesting and multifaceted"
All of the above is completely subjective, you're more than welcome to disagree with me but I wouldn't call those differing opinions flaws in the review?
i never meant to imply it was a flaw with your review, just discussing opinions. the review is really good, i just can't for the life of me understand all of there boc enthusiasts kicking off over how great/creative this is when they took the safest route possible. i'm reacting harshly to it because i expected so much more from them and it sounds like they're asleep at the computer 80% of the time.
Originally I was shocked at how sparse it was too, but I don't consider that at all to be laziness. Its meant to be a more ambient, vacant, distant album, like I said there's beauty in that emptiness. Its almost like a ghost of a BoC album, an old photograph of one.
Also the safest route possible = TCH, that album is lovely but it really is just them messing around in their own soundworld. This album is far more ambitious imo, it actually tries to take you somewhere new and have a different effect than usual, going for haunted and open rather than just more nostalgic analog meets creepy digital jams
fair reasoning. ive heard this 6 times now and i'm liking it less and less each time. sounds like they're on autopilot. campfire is a little all over the place, but songs like dayvan cowboy marry gorgeous ambiance with grandiosity. i seem to consider this lazy and without ambition for the opposite reason you think it works: none of this sounds new and exciting to me. this has been done time and again and by way better artists in the genre (keeping in mind boc is prob top 10 fave artists for me). there are so many ambient albums that I think both elicit a stronger emotional reaction and convey that air of darkness and melancholy far better than this, and tbh, if this wasn't created by boc i very sincerely doubt anyone would give a damn. i think we're at an impasse on this one. maybe one day it'll make more sense to me.