Boards Of Canada - Tomorrow’s Harvest

Boards Of Canada - Tomorrow’s Harvest

A soundtrack to a dead world.

Rating: 4.5/5

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 closely 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 to 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 – the album cover could either be a warhead detonating over modern-day San Francisco or the sun piercing its irradiated ruins in the future. 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, 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 fantastic 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 cinematic release yet, one that will undoubtedly continue to grow on me. Take its ghostly soundscapes as a warning of the lifeless world we’re building towards. For the seeds we sow today will be reaped in tomorrow’s harvest.
This article first appeared in Issue 14, 2013.
Posted 6:05pm Sunday 7th July 2013 by Basti Menkes.