Boards of Canada- Tomorrow’s Harvest: Desolate Tones and Grey Scale Storytelling

Tomorrow’s Harvest opposes much of what has gone before in Boards of Canada’s past recordings. Although the last three full lengths would often run along nightmarish lines, much of its descriptiveness and inspiration was translated via analogue production and a fanatical appreciation for the obscure- creating music which people could easily grab hold of and unravel. After eight years of inpatient guesswork from fans, Mike Sandison and Marcus Eoin finally answered the call, with an effort filled with reoccurring peril and the evermore topical idea of a human-less world.

With desolate tones, grey scale storytelling and the sense of life coming to an end; Tomorrow’s Harvest brings everything full circle. Reading down the tracklist gives the impression that Mike and Marcus are turning the last page on a story told over four albums; using an apocalyptic motif to conclude a world presented and developed though the organic and colourful debut ‘Music Has the Right to Children’, the poised claustrophobia of its follow up ‘Geogaddi’ and the heavily textured psychedelics of ‘Campfire Headphase’.

‘Gemini’ blurs the record into life with brief fanfare, reminiscent of the stuttering introduction from an old VHS tape. The lonesome sounding cries of melancholy strings are quickly overcome by more menacing swirls overhead- joined by jagged bass before fading out to the first single off the L.P- ‘Reach for the Dead’. Despite the bleak story evident from the tracklist, the album has many moments of warmness and fragility; ‘Jacquard Causeway’ wouldn’t sound out of place on the mid-nineties E.P ‘Twoism’, with spookily beautiful synthesizers and a trundling, metronome quality to the half-time percussion.

The foreboding interlude ‘Telepath’ will provide a nostalgic moment of familiarity with any fans, as a recognisably distorted voice reads a stream of numbers along to the backdrop of a haunted soundscape. There are plenty of times when despite the stark change in stylistic direction, it’s clear that you’re listening to a BoC album- bleakness tussles with hope and the line between emotions cross regularly. With tribal chants and warm encompassing synthesizers, ‘Palace Posy’ swells into a head nodding stand-out track; similar to their 1996 opus ‘Everything You do Is A Balloon’, in the same way that such a strong sense of atmosphere is created from nothing.

There are times however when Tomorrow’s Harvest suffers from a vacuum of richness; ‘Sick Times’ and ‘Split Your Infinities’ drag compared to other tracks which pass the four minute mark. A pitfall to the undertaking an album with such strong and consistent themes is the potential of material becoming birthed from necessity rather than spontaneity, a quality which reoccurs throughout.

Even with the less than outstanding ‘Campfire Headphase’ album, Boards of Canada have returned repeatedly with original ideas and performances. Tomorrow’s Harvest continues a high standard of output by turning expectations on its head and cutting out many trademarks which made the duo so well-known. This is an album that abandons many of the reoccurring aesthetics which have turned them into cult figures, creating a piece of work rife with beautiful examples of atmospheric story-telling- using the unique and creative originality of an undocumented side of Boards of Canada.  

Words: Charlie Wood