Review: Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
Published on June 5th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
It’s hard to know how to feel about the mystique-plied build-up to Boards of Canada’s fourth album proper Tomorrow’s Havest; on the one hand, they’ve earned the right to carry themselves with a certain importance, but Tomorrow’s Harvest doesn’t feel like the grand statement it should all have been leading to. Daft Punk managed to justify their hype with a pretty spectacular record, whereas Tomorrow’s Harvest might as well be titled Jam Tomorrow for all that it strings you along on the notion that it hasn’t quite got going yet and ultimately not quite doing so.
2005’s The Campfire Headphase didn’t seem to be as well received as their landmark full debut Music Has the Right to Children and its emboldened successor Geogaddi but, to Rocksucker’s ears at least, it rounded off a pretty formidable trilogy (myriad EPs notwithstanding); their artistry in managing to make organic instrumentation sound still very much like Boards of Canada was impressive in its own right, while their knack for unsettling yet utterly immersive melodies and progressions remained in rude health. Only now on Tomorrow’s Harvest does it feel dimmed.
Perhaps something’s been lost in translation, since the misty orange hue of Geogaddi and The Campfire Headphase has made way for a broader selection of pastel colours. There are blues and pinks in the mix of “Reach for the Dead”, over the course of which that familiarly sticky rhythm section gradually assumes more and more control, as it did all those years ago on Music Has the Right to Children kickstarter “An Eagle in Your Mind”. Basically, new Boards of Canada comes head to head with old Boards of Canada and eventually loses out to it.
In the meantime, a departure appears to be on the cards: “White Cycloa” is replete with synth of both a chirruping staccato and shimmering glacial nature, before “Jacquard Causeway” rides a clunky, oddly staggered beat through a drizzle of fluttery fairground keys, stumbling into a monged kind of electronic string section that descends upon it and engulfs. Old elements are present but Boards of Canada’s snow globe of sound has been given a good shake here. What ensues is, regrettably, too uneventful and too reconcilable with their previous work to make much of an impact.
That doesn’t make it bad, just a little underwhelming. There was still plenty at play to keep this scribe a-scribbling: “Cold Earth” has a wibble-synthed menace and a consummately unfurling rhythm section that gradually (there’s that word again) begins to take charge even amidst all the lush analog synths, “Palace Posy” traipses through the jungle clearing a passage for some gurgly robo voice, while “Split Your Infinities” finds a skittering, loping beat holding up swirling synths (mental note: need synonym for ‘synth’) and another addled voice melting into the mix like butter into a toasted crumpet, all yummy up in your tummy.
“New Seeds” is a welcome late show of newness – it judders, shudders, buzzes, clip clops and shakes, sounding as if it’s being orbited by some malevolent conga line – but when “Semena Mertvykh” drifts quietly off into the ether, the residual sensation is not quite one of triumph. One to persist with or revisit and reassess, perhaps, but after four listens we can only quail it accordingly…
Rocksucker says: Three Quails out of Five!
Tomorrow’s Harvest will be released on 9th June by Warp Records.