Release Date: Jun 11, 2013
Record label: Warp
Genre(s): Electronic, Ambient, Electronica, Downtempo, Pop/Rock
The buildup for a Boards of Canada return was very…Boards of Canada, wasn’t it? Secret Record Store Day 12”’s, hidden numerical codes under feedback, password protected websites, video screenings in Tokyo, desert listening parties – these methods of building hype would seem overly strange and elaborate coming from most artists, but from Boards of Canada, you kind of expect them to go out of their way to be cryptic like that. BoC hardly needed to work so hard to generate buzz for their long awaited return, but it’s this peculiarity, attention to detail, and overall presence of a secret organization rather than two Scottish musicians that has preserved the duo as such a fascinating entity for all these years. Nowhere has this been more prevalent, however, than in their records, and Tomorrow’s Harvest, the duo’s latest, is a perfect reminder of how well these two can bring their unique aesthetic to life through music.
"There's a timeless thing in our environment," Marcus Eoin of Boards Of Canada told the Guardian last week in a rare interview. "In an urban setting you can't really escape being reminded of the current year, and music fashions and so on. " That the reclusive Scottish duo makes music off the grid shouldn't come as a great surprise: since their classic 1998 debut, Music Has The Right To Children, Boards Of Canada have operated as a closed system, making music resembling very little but their own.
With long-awaited returns by David Bowie, My Bloody Valentine, the Knife, and Daft Punk in just the first few months, 2013 was already the year of the comeback when Boards of Canada resurfaced. Despite the fact it had been seven years since their last release, the Trans Canada Highway EP, and eight since their last full-length, the uneven Campfire Headphase, upon hearing Tomorrow's Harvest, it almost feels like the duo never went away. Unlike some of the work by their returning contemporaries, the album doesn't reveal any dramatic changes; this is undeniably the work of Boards of Canada, filled with the melancholy melodies and subtly edgy rhythms they've been pursuing since the late '90s.
Going back to their 1998 debut Music Has the Right to Children, Boards of Canada have always been rooted in the familiar, albeit in small chunks to prevent pigeonholing their sound. Their albums have been incredibly dense works. Even though they haven’t released a full-length album in more than seven years, it takes about that long to digest a work like 2002’s Geogaddi.
Following one of the most effective teaser campaigns since the car wash scene in Cool Hand Luke, Scots electronica titans Boards of Canada are back from their seven year lay-off. The atmosphere they hinted at with their May test transmission video was accurate: after the textured guitars and beach vibes of 2005’s The Campfire Headphase, Tomorrow’s Harvest is cold and sinister, its themes harking back to the 'New Clear Dawn' images the band posted before vanishing. These 17 vignettes glow with Cold War paranoia, picking up where Threads, the most scarring piece of TV ever made, left off.
Boards Of CanadaTomorrow's Harvest[Warp; 2013]By Josh Becker; June 11, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetIt's easy to imagine the scene: 11:45 pm on December 21, 2012. In an abandoned Soviet-era bomb shelter, several shadowed figures are hunched around a dusty digital clock radio, listening for garbled broadcasts of the coming apocalypse and silently counting down the minutes until midnight passes. In the right light, you might notice Kevin Shields, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer, Justin Timberlake, David Bowie, and Otis Jackson Jr.
Praised, reclusive techno duo makes two acclaimed records and a spottier third in the public eye, which grow influential in unforeseen ways over a long hiatus, returns for epically, mysteriously marketed media event of a comeback album in 2013. And then the album itself mostly does away with the sound that they’re known for in the first place. But enough about Daft Punk.
Sounds like Boards of Canada. In the early years of this century, you heard many electronic music aficionados using that phrase, usually in the context of an endorsement. The Scottish brothers Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin didn’t invent a new sound, but they did take various strands of music floating around and pull them into one place and essentially perfect them.
To the uninitiated, Tomorrow's Harvest could seem like a low-key kind of "event" album. It obeys its own private rules and, despite giving dubstep the occasional polite nod of acknowledgement, deepens rather than broadens the duo's existing sound. Some curious listeners might wonder why Boards of Canada inspire such intense adoration; others will find the album's allusive beauty keeps triggering vivid new images and tremors of emotion months from now.
Cryptic Edinburgh electronic duo Boards Of Canada bring us Tomorrow’s Harvest, an album which was initially first aired to fans in an abandoned theme park in California. If that sounds a little bizarre, more perplexing yet is the fact that the first traces of the record surfaced at Record Store Day 2013, when a vinyl was released which contained one of several secret code numbers. The duo’s strong fan base eventually found out that the numbers were later used to promote the release of a new record, BOC’s first in eight years.
The pressure of being as influential as Boards of Canada must be intense, and is probably at least partly why the Scottish duo took almost a decade between their last release and Tomorrow's Harvest. Just as My Bloody Valentine's comeback album had to be grounded in their 90s legacy and at the same time move forward, BoC needed to live up to fans' memories of past ambient masterpieces while resisting the temptation of nostalgia. To their credit, Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin haven't taken the easy route.
While Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin are no strangers to overt expressions of menace, most notably on 2002's positively seething Geogaddi, Tomorrow's Harvest, a chilled dirge of an album, offers a polar antipode. The album begins with a tantalizing bit of misdirection. “Gemini” opens with some kitschy '70s fanfare—a thoroughly signature Boards of Canada affectation—announcing the triumphant return of the Scottish brothers to the musical world.
Type in tomorrowsharvest.com and you won’t find information for Boards of Canada’s fourth studio album, but instead, an online store carrying a wealth of supplies for emergency situations. Their target market? Doomsday preppers. It’s fitting then that the Scottish electronic duo, consisting of Mike Sandison and Marcus Eoin, would link their latest album to something so peculiar.
Despite being on vastly different planes of popularity and genre, there are a number of parallels between Daft Punk and Boards of Canada in 2013. Both promoted their long-awaited new albums via supposedly "outdated" media; both shrouded their releases in an air of mystery by deliberately keeping mum with press; and both, oddly, are following up their most maligned releases to date. But where Daft Punk's Random Access Memories was an almost complete departure from the sound of Human After All, Boards of Canada have opted to stay the course that produced 2005's The Campfire Headphase; they've even backtracked a little.
Honestly, you probably already know if you like Tomorrow's Harvest, the new album from Scottish brother-duo Boards of Canada. That's partly a testament to the band's towering previous achievements—they frequently disappear for years between releases, only to suddenly put out music that ends up near the top of every year-end list. Their sort-of debut album, Music Has the Right to Children, is widely regarded as a classic of the genre, and its follow-ups Geogaddi and The Campfire Headphase were universally praised.
Before EDM, there was IDM: so-called intelligent dance music, made by laptop auteurs who wouldn't be caught dead at an Electric Daisy Carnival, if such a thing had existed yet. A lot has changed in electronic music since those days, not that you'd know it from Boards of Canada's comeback album. The publicity-averse Scottish duo pick up more or less where they left off seven years ago, orchestrating an hourlong suite of ambient creepers, downtempo chillers and other old versions of the future.
There are times (the excellent Cold Earth, Sick Times) when this album's dystopian bent recalls Thom Yorke's neurotic electronic side projects in spirit, if not sound – a full circle, perhaps, given the debt Radiohead's Kid A owed to Boards' 1998 debut, Music Has the Right to Children. That old album title was, of course, thrillingly polysemic: cutesy and pro-internet (music having the right to reproduce) or, alternately, carnivorous (music actually consuming our progeny). Tomorrow's Harvest is another intriguing Rorschach blot of a record from a splendidly arcane band.
“As the big toe of a saint’s statue gradually disappears under the onslaught of his devotees’ kisses, so the Big Toe of reality dissolves slowly but Inexorably under perpetual exposure to the continuous Kiss of mankind. The higher the density of a civilization — the more metropolitan it is — the higher the frequency of the Kiss, the faster the process of consumption of the reality of nature and artifacts. ”– Remi Koolhaas, Delirious New York “I don’t work for Warp, and am just a college kid who idolizes this group.
Marketing campaigns: love them or hate them, they’ve dominated the pop music discussion in 2013. Daft Punk’s, we can all agree, was utterly unavoidable, but Boards of Canada weren’t all that far behind. First there were the cryptic code-bearing twelve-inches hidden in record stores around the world, and further details broadcast on Radio 1 and NPR.
Enjoying their previous output has always required a bit of work on the listener’s part, but with Tomorrow’s Harvest, Boards Of Canada take the idea of inaccessibility a step further. The only hard copies of music from the duo’s first album since 2006’s Trans Canada Highway EP currently available came in the form of a cryptic advertising campaign involving numbers to decode and snippets of noise released on vinyl that, despite having a running time no longer than your average yawn, still fetched a barmy sum on eBay. Even now, months later, any journalist wishing to critique the album is handed a link to an alternately named record by an act not listed as Boards of Canada, one that just happens to have tracks with identical lengths (though totally different names) to every number on Tomorrow’s Harvest.
You only need to look at the interest generated by Boards of Canada’s fascinating marketing campaign to see how much people care about the enigmatic Scottish duo. It made sense – an act who have always been mysterious and forward thinking, having one of most well sophisticated and well thought-out promotions in recent memory (well, maybe save a couple of French robots, at least). The vinyl sold on Record Store Day in New York started the hunt and then DJs on Radio 1 and NPR revealed further snippets of a code which led to the announcement of this, their new album, ‘Tomorrow’s Harvest’.
"Tomorrow's Harvest," the fourth album by Scottish ambient electronic duo Boards of Canada, begins with the sound of an audio logo, a quick "Intel inside"-suggestive mnemonic that vanishes as quickly as it arrives. The tones are followed by a moment of silence, and the effect is not unlike the strike of a bell before a meditation session. Immediately, the listener is transported into another world, one realized on computer but teeming with organic beauty.
The other day I picked up a used copy of John Carpenter’s soundtrack to Escape From New York, arguably his best movie ever next to They Live (apologies to any or all Assault on Precinct 13 heads out there). And I have Boards of Canada to thank for inspiring my purchase. The blogosphere is right, friends: the Scottish brother duo’s first album in eight years definitely harbors a serious JC vibe.
byDREW MALMUTH It’s all about the number 6. Or maybe The Conet Project. But of course there is something about number theory. And maybe The Little House on the Prairie. The theories that followed Reddit member lilcakey’s discovery of a twenty second recording on a Boards of Canada 12” in a ….
Preceded by seven years of silence and teased for weeks through a carefully crafted blitz of online clips, codes, and clues, the new Boards of Canada album could have collapsed under the weight of its avant-hype. Instead “Tomorrow’s Harvest” is as strong a return to form as it is stunning an update, with the Scottish duo refining their blend of nostalgic sonics and futuristic sheen. Songs like “Cold Earth,” “Reach for the Dead,” and “Sick Times” are familiar specimens, with dramatically hue-shifting analog tones, and disembodied voices that crackle through like birdsong.
Boards Of Canada have always been creepy. Beneath the playful, child-like purity of the Scotish duo’s early work there was often an element of unease. It wasn’t always obvious or even palpable, but it was there, lurking, and its presence is part of what made those early albums so powerful. Last year the horror film Sinister made ample use of the song “Gyroscope” off the band’s 2002 record Geogaddi, transforming the track’s violent drum loop into a ghostly whisper that haunts Ethan Hawke’s true-crime writer character.