First Thoughts: Boards Of Canada: Tomorrow's Harvest

Their much anticipated return previewed...
Tomorrow's Harvest

It begins with a short fanfare, a synthesised note-burst surely half-inched from some forgotten '70s educational program. It’s sweet, it’s fun and it’s completely in tune with where Boards Of Canada have come from – sounding not unlike computer start up code, this is a mechanised wink, a programmed nudge, a pun built for the future.

As ‘Tomorrow’s Harvest’ moves on, it becomes quickly clear that this isn’t some half-hearted return. Every aspect has been carefully played, expertly placed within the context of their own career which refusing to become introverted. Stylistically, the album veers away from the treated guitars of ‘The Campfire Headphase’ and moves back to the pure electronics of ‘Music Has The Right To Children’. The much discussed post-apocalyptic themes are apparent throughout – explicitly through the song titles, implicitly through the sounds of grinding machinery and lifeless wind.

An album, a universe which will surely take much more than one listen  to fully explore, we decided to limit ourselves to one word, one phrase for each track.

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‘Gemini’

Twins. The figure two – two brothers, two layers: cold, Italo synths and granulated noise rippling beneath.

‘Reach For The Dead’

The one you’ve heard.

‘White Cyclosa’

Cycles, arpeggios. The idea of recurrence looms large.

‘Jacquard Causeway’

The Jarquard machine changed the way weaving took place, helping to instigate the Industrial Revolution. ‘Jacquard Causeway’ is dark, extreme and lasts for over six minutes – the bellowing bottom end is just one indication that Boards Of Canada have purchased the odd Shackleton 12 inch.

‘Telepath’

Telepathy, hidden messages are a recurring theme in Boards Of Canada’s work. At times little more than static, ‘Telepath’ periodically snaps into view - allowing you a snapshop, but nothing more. An extended vocal sample, the words themselves remain frustratingly out of place.

‘Cold Earth’

Eastern influenced, Boards Of Canada use a drone sound to conjure up a sense of the infinite. Whereas Eastern drones are frequently tied to spiritual aims, this feels more like devastation – the infinite life of a dead planet.

‘Transmisiones Ferox’

Whilst it would be trite to describe ‘Tomorrow’s Harvest’ as a journey, Boards Of Canada are obviously keen to introduce ideas of travel. ‘Transmisiones Ferox’ opens with the sound of something (a rocket?) taking off, before subtly unveiling yet more damaged vocal samples.

‘Sick Times’

One of the masterful things about ‘Tomorrow’s Harvest’ is the way it explores building and collapse, melody and noise. From the abstract to one of the albums more direct moments, ‘Sick Times’ is hinged on a beat which nods towards hip hop while that rattling low end is straight from a soundsystem.

‘Collapse’

The future can only really exist in the present as a word, as an art form. So are these voices from the future? There’s an intense anxiety here, Boards Of Canada painstakingly building atmosphere almost as an instrument in itself.

‘Palace Posy’

One of the album’s more up-beat moments; rooted in near tribal rhythms, the track shifts between the primitive and the ultra-modern.

‘Split Your Infinites’

The cheeky pun continues this short lived vein of good humour. The synth patterns oscillate across the stereo, continually veering apart to suggest the infinite.

‘Uritual’

Brief. Buzzing. Literally. Is that a digeridoo?

‘Nothing Is Real’

The title is taken from ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ – Boards Of Canada’s most direct Beatles reference to date.

‘Sundown’

Well, with a title like that Boards Of Canada couldn’t help but chill out, could they? Continually approaching some sense of resolve, it’s attempt at blissful peace is akin to Eno’s ‘An Ascent’. Yet there’s something wrong, something not quite right here – a latent paranoia, a disruption.

‘New Seeds’

One of the album’s real high points. The synths are tech-driven, but there’s a clear fondness for the charms of the echo chamber. Villalobos and Basic Channel loom large, with Boards Of Canada veering into epic territory.

‘Come To Dust’

Clipped. Militaristic. The lyrics are delivered in a heavily treated fashion, which borders on a vocoder effect. There’s in inherent fatalism here, bordering on a sense of acceptance.

‘Semena Mertvykh’

Google translate reveals this to mean ‘Seeds of the Dead’ in Russian. Refusing to go full circle, Boards Of Canada hint at themes explored elsewhere on the album. It’s cyclical, but not circular – much like the path of the planets themselves. Ending with a long, drawn out drone, the finale of ‘Tomorrow’s Harvest’ is both incomplete but completely satisfying. 

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'Tomorrow's Harvest' is set to be released on June 10th.

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