The Albums of 2013 (#8): Boards of Canada – Tomorrow's Harvest (Warp)

Feature by Darren Carle | 04 Dec 2013

For an elusive duo who once proclaimed ‘music is math,’ the cryptic, numerical-led announcement of Boards of Canada’s fourth album was surely the most apt of marketing campaigns. There was the discovery of a unique artefact; a solitary Record Store Day 12-inch, and the subsequent frenzied online treasure hunt for the inter-locking codes that finally confirmed the imminent arrival of Tomorrow’s Harvest.

With the cyber-dust finally settled though, was the secretive Scottish siblings' first album in eight years really worth the wait? In a word, yes. Tomorrow’s Harvest is certainly no suckerpunch, more an unsettling glare before invoking a nervous breakdown, yet fifteen years after their revered, wide-eyed debut album Music Has The Right To Children, it’s a tact that feels warranted in these less oblivious times.

Unlike previous albums, Tomorrow’s Harvest has no immediate, attention-grabbing show tune. No Roygbiv, no 1969, no Dayvan Cowboy. But then BoC are not a singles band and here they made that clear, further blurring the lines between their traditional ‘songs’ and intermittent ‘musical interludes.’ The latter have given previous works their texture and themes, meaning Tomorrow’s Harvest feels more organic than, say, the empirical division of styles they exercised on 2002’s Geogaddi.

The near-total media blackout that shrouds brothers Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin means author intent remains suitably nebulous. However, the down-tempo, harder-edged Tomorrow’s Harvest seems to invoke the encroachment of the city on the countryside, further evidenced by the album’s artwork and a rare insight from Eoin on their Pentland Hills' studio space being a necessary escape from the urban sprawl. In a sense, it’s the bucolic dream of 2005’s The Campfire Headphase turned gritty nightmare.

Except that Tomorrow’s Harvest is still imbued with an underlying sense of hope and wonder, a trait that came fully-formed to most listeners back in 1998. That may offer Boards of Canada some leverage, yet it’s a commodity they have never traded in and Tomorrow’s Harvest is, were it needed, further evidence of this. The horizon may look a little greyer and the climate a bit colder, but the field in which Boards of Canada stand tall is still resolutely their own.