After the years of waiting, the time spent unknowing, the endless clues, the speculation, the half-truths and outright fibs. After allusions, illusions and confusions it’s finally here: a button is pressed and ‘Tomorrow’s Harvest’ burrs into life, with neat synthesized fanfare no doubt half-inched from some long-forgotten educational program.
Opening track ‘Gemini’ arrives amid incredible pressure, with Boards Of Canada facing up to a gap in their discography of some eight years. Recognisably the work of the Sandison brothers, it has a crisp edge that borders on Italo. Two synth parts interweave, perhaps the ‘Gemini’ pairing of the title: noise/tonality, melody/rhythm, present/future, Michael/Marcus.
‘Reach For The Dead’ (video below) places the emphasis on rhythm, and of the use of space. Informed by some of the more unhinged talents of the dubstep sphere, the drums are delivered with near physical precision, impacting on your chest with a tribal grace. It’s a remarkable opening segment, one that finds Boards Of Canada toying with expectations and teasing out possibilities: taking chances, exploring possibilities casting their minds towards the future.
As ever, there are mysteries galore for fans to bask in. Where on Earth would you find a Jacquard Causeway? What is a White Cyclosa? And who can hear Transmisiones Ferox? Sure, the endless game playing, the continual puzzles do tire after a while but taken as a purely sonic document ‘Tomorrow’s Harvest’ matches density to precision, with those endless about turns never failing to engage.
Weighing in at 17 tracks and more than an hour’s worth of music, ‘Tomorrow’s Harvest’ does come with considerable ballast. A sparse, at times morbid middle section does feel tired, over-extended, with the atmosphere of foreboding perhaps being over-played. Yet throughout there are fine ideas billowing out of the slipstream, with only those moments which sound most recognisably Boards Of Canada truly testing the patience.
Focussing on post-apocalyptic themes – ‘Cold Earth’, ‘Sick Times’ et al – ‘Tomorrow’s Harvest’ is cyclical, introspective. If machines have soul, then this is truly spiritual music with its final third finding Boards Of Canada at their most inspired, most engaged.
Toying with euphoria and despair, ‘Tomorrow’s Harvest’ reaches a climax neither conclusive nor unsatisfying. Life ebbs, returns and what compels us forward ultimately seals our own fate. ‘Semena Mertvykh’ ends the album with an undulating drone, exposing the threads of noise that lie underneath, the chaos which lies underneath our carefully programmed lives.
Boards Of Canada stunned us all with their return, as carefully orchestrated as any aspect of their career. Thankfully, they’ve saved their finest ideas for ‘Tomorrow’s Harvest’, which burns as brightly as anything they have accomplished thus far.
Words: Robin Murray
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