Boards of Canada, Tomorrow’s Harvest
A careful, confident return from one of ambient music's most beloved cult acts
Let’s say Stanley Kubrick was still around. And he decided to make an apocalyptic movie full of barren landscapes and deserted cities that were decimated by…something. It doesn’t really matter whether it was disease, nuclear war or a flesh-eating virus. What matters is what’s left, and how to deal with a new world order you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.
End scene. And enter the first Boards of Canada full-length in almost eight years: Tomorrow’s Harvest, a drowsy waking dream that’s one alternate universe away from being a chilly Kubrick soundtrack. It’s cut from the same analog cloth as Wendy Carlos’s work on A Clockwork Orange. Only in this case, “a bit of the old ultra-violence” isn’t paired with nightmarish Beethoven nods. It’s expressed through polyphonic synths, muddled counter-melodies, scrambled vocal samples and sluggish beats from the great beyond.
If that description sounds like it could apply to any of the Scottish duo’s last three albums, well, that’s because Tomorrow’s Harvest isn’t much of a departure for one of ambient music’s leading cult acts. It’s exactly what we’ve all waited for instead — a confident, carefully developed record that maintains a very specific mood for 62 minutes, from its ominous “We interrupt this broadcast” intro to its unsettling climax (the sustained chords and suffocated strings of “Semena Mertvykh” are a blatant reminder that things will not, in fact, be okay). This shouldn’t be a surprise, what with apocalyptic song titles like “Reach For the Dead,” “Sick Times” and “Come to Dust,” and yet Marcus Eoin and Mike Sandison still manage to keep us on the edge of our seats throughout. No wonder why the LP’s audio-only YouTube premiere lacked its sun-scorched visuals; songs this evocative don’t need any.