Review Summary: I can see it all now; a map of the stars, sun soaked horizons at dawn, desolate neighborhoods tinged with orange from streetlights above.
There’s a certain breaking point that everyone hits when it comes to trying to rest. The boredom of sitting in wake consumes the mind, perpetually waiting to drift off without any sort of relief ever seeming to come, and suddenly the reprieve of staying awake and, well, actually doing something seems preferable to the time lost in rest. I’d never been good when it came to sleeping on planes anyways, and evidently the exhausting hours of travel I had been through previously hadn’t been enough to overcome that. As I slowly came back to consciousness the hazy synths and crunchy, distorted vocals of Split Your Infinites drifted through my head, and I was reminded that out of recommendation of a friend I’d decided to try listening to Boards of Canada while sleeping to see if it would help me get what people saw in them. It didn’t. Just like I hadn’t felt anything when I tried listening to them while watching old grainy footage on YouTube, or when I tried focusing specifically on the beats and how they developed, or any of the countless other situations people had said were necessary to really “get” them.
That moment of revelation did come shortly, however.
I opened the window next to my seat, figuring that since we only had an hour left in the flight and I didn’t have much else to do I might as well finish off the album. A thin line of clouds rolled over the horizon in the distance as the sun slowly descended below them, painting the sky shades of orange, purple and blue. Long fields stretched out for miles, patterns of crops carving grooves into the landscape. Within a few minutes the sun had touched the end of earth, and within a few more it had disappeared behind its back. I think it’s important to note, if it wasn’t already clear, I hadn’t seen much in BoC’s music up until this point. On a purely musical level I thought some of their beats were interesting, and they had some nice sound design, but that’s about as far as my appreciation went. I do believe however that there was something in that specific, unique moment in time that coexisted perfectly with the atmosphere being created through their music that made me see it in a completely different light. For the first time I understood what was so personal, and so emotional about their music for so many, and it seemed like that impression hinged entirely on my fascination on the world outside the window – it could not have happened at any other time or place.
It’s funny, they might be the only artists where I can pinpoint the exact moment where I realized how special they were to me, despite it being such a mundane, forgettable situation otherwise. It was almost as if I was viewing the world through a lens, opening up a viewpoint that would otherwise be inaccessible, a viewpoint that exposed an immense amount of wonder and mystery to an otherwise incredibly normal landscape and moment in time. It’s something that I can’t say I’ve ever really experienced through any other album. After that point my fascination with it became insatiable, I’d come back to it multiple times a week waiting to drift off to the expansive fields with the orange and purple stained horizons consuming my vision.
All of this happened a little over a year ago at this point. Since then I’ve had a dozen or so similar experiences varying in intensity while listening to it. Sitting out on my Aunt’s porch at 1 in the morning, orange light from the streetlamp filling the yard as my eyes wandered over the stars. Walking around my neighborhood at the crack of dawn watching the horizon slowly brighten, the life in each house slowly oozing back in. Driving along highway going into Seattle as the sun slowly set over the Cascade Mountains in the distance turning the sky into a gradient of blues and oranges. Albeit none of these events are incredibly unique or notable on their own, but something about the way the hazy, mysterious, almost uncomfortable atmosphere of this album slowly drifts through the mind in this very specific situations has the power to open up an entirely new world.
And as such, the idea that Tomorrow’s Harvest is a nostalgic album as so many seem to think, being inherently linked with the past is an idea that I’ve grown to detest. It’s not hard to see why so many come to this conclusion; the grainy, crackly quality of a lot of the synths throughout this album do create a very distinctive retro sound, which is only aided by distorted lo fi samples. I do think however this is a surface level observation at best, and defining BoC’s music as nostalgic is doing an injustice to the level of subtlety they’ve crafted, and the potential there is for emotional resonance within their music. The only way I personally have found to have their music open up to me was to experience it in the present, to focus on the small details in the world that I’d previously overlooked and let the atmosphere unfold it all. The world is perpetually passing us by faster than we can process it, details blurring together into a haze. Tomorrow’s Harvest is about slowing down time to appreciate the intricacies of the present moment, the small mysteries we overlook every moment. This isn’t music that’s meant for dwelling in the past.
I could go into depth about the specific musical qualities that make this such a masterpiece, cause BoC are undeniably at the top of their game here when it comes to their approach to IDM and ambient. The melody in Nothing is Real is absolutely sublime, shimmering by with some of the more lighthearted emotions on the album. Jacquard Causeway has one of the most unique beats BoC have ever created, featuring a very punctual continuous snare that fades in and out over distortion. Telepath features some very effective sample work, creating an incredibly eerie yet somewhat comforting atmosphere. These specific characteristics, however, are not what make Tomorrow’s Harvest special. You can spend all day picking apart whether or not the techniques used here are really up to par with the rest of BoC’s work or not, but I believe that’s ultimately missing the point. This is not an album that you can pick apart in such a manner, stripping back each individual element for examination, but rather something that needs to be felt, experienced.
I really don’t believe I’ll ever be able to fully put into words the way I feel about this album, or BoC in general for that matter. It’s undeniable that there’s something incredibly special and personal about what they’ve done here, but it’s not something that you can simply put into words and have someone understand it in the same way. It’s something that needs to be discovered on a personal level, that needs time to develop and blossom for each individual listener, and I think that alone should stand for what Tomorrow’s Harvest has accomplished.