Boards of Canada - Tomorrow's Harvest

by Sarah Allen Rating:7 Release Date:2013-06-10

A lot of weird shit went down leading up to the release of Board of Canada's latest album. Between blank vinyls with hints to Tomorrow's Harvest's release date (one of which someone sold on eBay for four figures), and a listening party in the middle of the Californian Mojave desert (the location of which was hidden in a coded tweet from the band), it was quite a departure from their usual reclusive, publicity-shy persona.

The princes of electronica, brothers Mike Sandison and Marcus Eoin - who are about as Canadian as Irvine Welsh - have produced a project with a much darker sound compared to their body of work spanning 30 years. However, the new album retains BOC's traits. Tomorrow's Harvest, their fourth album and first since 2005's The Campfire Headphase, kicks off with 'Gemini', a Blade Runner fan's dream. With its foreboding cinematic feel, it's no coincidence Sandison and Eoin have even admitted in an interview with the Guardian to being "very much into grim 70s and 80s movie soundtracks".

The opener leads nicely into 'Reach for the Dead', (check out its video on boardsofcanada.com), an assembly of menacing basslines and synthesized sounds, as well as a looped beat which sounds like an old scratched record, redolent of 'Gyroscope' from 2002 album Geogaddi. The mood of the song and its title suggests an apocalyptic event where you're (barely) the last one standing, a feeling upheld throughout the 17-track album.

The ominous 'White Cyclosa' makes me wish I'd paid more attention during science lessons at school. (Its definition is something to do with spider-like organisms.) The track maintains the cinematic feel but with a minimalist approach, with a beat that doesn't start up until three quarters into the track. And even then, it's nominal and menacing, like waiting for a fight to erupt in a south London Sainsbury's car park.

A creepy interlude from 'Telepath', complete with distorted vocals of a man counting up to seven and making the odd indecipherable comment, makes way for the light at the middle of the album's bleak tunnel. Ironically, 'Cold Earth' (one of the album's highlights), has an optimistic tone to it. The song contains more characteristic vocal samples, this time from a relatively happy girl, considering she's one of a few survivors, post-apocalypse. (The sample is reminiscent of 'Roygbiv' from BOC's 1998 album Music Has the Right to Children.) I can't quite make out what she's saying and I'm not sure if that's deliberate or if I'm just a bit deaf…

The sun sets over the tunnel and we're plunged back into desolate yet delicious darkness with 'Sick Times'. A rollercoaster of emotions pervade Tomorrow's Harvest and the highs are often the highlights of the album, like the euphoric 'Palace Posy'. 'Nothing Is Real' could be played on repeat in my room while I'm on my deathbed until I nod off permanently. This heavenly - albeit repetitive - track is a firm album highlight, with the emphasis on light. It is classic BOC, with more distorted and unintelligible vocal samples. I may or may not have heard someone mention "Jesus", which would be a huge diss to Christianity.

The title also makes me think of the album cover, which appears to be a picture of the San Francisco skyline but is in fact, according to Eoin, "A ghost of the city. You're looking straight through it." Bona fide BOC fans will be aware of the band's obsession with integrating maths and science into their music and their latest project is no exception. Sandison has admitted the album is "Loaded with patterns and messages", revealing there are "Various tricks embedded throughout the whole body of this album".

For instance, the penultimate track 'Come to Dust', (another stellar inclusion), is a reprise of the second track 'Reach for the Dead'. You can hear a particular recurring beat on the song which sounds like it's been reversed. 'Jacquard Causeway' is also testament to the band's fascination, a marching waltz laced with reverberated sequences. And let's not forget 'Split Your Infinities'.

The album's closer 'Semena Mertvykh', Russian for 'seeds of the dead', sounds as one would expect with such a title. As disturbing as the track is, it also denotes the birth of a new album. And anything borne of Tomorrow's Harvest will be well worth another eight-year wait.

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