‘Good’ commentary of ‘good’ music has conventional methods of operation. It opens with an elliptical and acute observation about the relevance of the band within their socioeconomic context. There will be a fun item of cut-out-and-keep-trivia. It goes on to sum up the trajectory of said band over their last two, three, four, five albums. If that trajectory has dipped of late, things might just get interesting.
Naturally then, ‘good’ music commentary requires a level of background knowledge. Things are going to be disappointing from hereon in. I’m not even nearly qualified to write this. Boards of Canada would not be my specialist subject on Mastermind. It was only late last week I discovered that their Canadianism is non-existent.
But it’s okay. We’re going to hold hands and wade through the album that is ‘Tomorrow’s Harvest’ together. It’s going to be okay if we get things wrong or fall over or anger some serious fans. It’s going to be okay because ‘Tomorrow’s Harvest’ is a brilliant album, and I’d really rather not know if it stands alone as their best, or if it’s a tragic fall from grace. I’d rather not know and I’d really rather not do the research.
At a loss for any other reference points on which to grab, it seems logical to start from the top. ‘Gemini’ heralds the opening of this, the nth album from the xian band with some sort of musical signature that sounds really, really familiar. It might be something from the old test card or maybe my dad’s text alert. Answers on a postcard please.
Then all familiarity dissipates. Jagged hacksaw synths and tiptoeing sci-fi sounds collide. Without vocals to confirm language or species, the track could really have been plucked from any point in time or space. The different forces at play are barely compatible, but the effect – that of a musical anxiety – is all the better for it.
Single ‘Reach For The Dead’ follows. Delicate complexities of all sorts are buried deep under the murky depths of stuff Boards Of Canada shroud themselves under. It’s somewhere between decades ago and millennia away. Once again, I don’t know. But it’s good.
Other noteworthiness includes ‘Jaquards Causeway’. The complexion of its electronic parts lurch from highly-strung to milky warm, with the sort of ease that makes you wonder if they enjoy making things difficult for themselves.
Clocking in at 17 tracks, length-wise this album is by far the longest/shortest/about what is to be expected from Boards of Canada. Perhaps this signals change of something in their ethos that shows some direction of progression/stagnation/defeatism from the band. I don’t know.
What I do know is that with ‘Tomorrow’s Harvest’, Boards of Canada have refined the art of taking the synthetic and making it sound elemental; a real medium of art rather than a shiny pop gimmick.
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