Review: Boards Of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest

Something is always swirling in the background of Tomorrow’s Harvest: glimmering, drifting unknown on the perimeter of audibility; a beckoning slither of light in the sky, placed intangibility high above an earth of murk and washed out shades. Eight years after the infinite summer of The Campfire Headphase comes a dreary winter of acceptance, and there’s a haunting sense that the listener has missed a key plot point that resides somewhere between the two: the moment of horrific (or terrific?) epiphany that juddered through their vibrant utopia of 2005, upturning Boards Of Canada’s moon-eyed appreciation for life and leaving a life-weary inevitability in its place. In the most captivating application of their cryptic and enigmatic nature, the duo leave a listener in the wake of a world transformed, with only a handful of obscured, cassette-worn clues alluding to what may have happened in the meantime.

It is their most cohesive and potent full-length yet. The atmosphere hangs over its hour duration like a gigantic stormcloud, built upon a handful of attributes that rise up through the tracks again and again: smudged horizons of harmony, star-like dots of arpeggiation, lethargically lingering synth fifth chords, unhurried trudges of muddy VHS rhythm, bass frequency juddering through the downbeat, and of course, warped voices reciting numbers and muttering phrases. On “Cold Earth” these elements swerve and throb over a ghoulish negative exposure of The Campfire Headphase’s drifting, clacking grooves; on “Split Your Infinites” they stand precariously on a cliff face above a gaping techno drop, resisting the urge to jump to lean into a blazing night sky instead.

In a recent interview the band revealed that the record has palindromic structure, the knowledge of which warranted a hyper-attentive repeat listen in itself. They’ve already confirmed that “Come To Dust” reprises the central melody of “Reach For The Dead”, but it’s the voices throughout the record that could set the most explicit markers for how and why this palindrome exists. The bubbling low male slurring numbers on “Telepath” later returns as a vibrant, bubbling Barry White on “Nothing Is Real”, while the female half-sigh that loops eternally through “Transmissiones Ferox” is heard again muttering throughout the gradual, eerie burnout during the latter half of the aforementioned “Split Your Infinites”. In both cases, the pair of tracks are palindromic opposites. Taking “Collapse” as the centre point – the moment at which the record starts to manifest as its own mirror image – could we be looking at a record that reaches back into an ethereal afterlife of lost words, and forward into a corporeal existence flecked with the vibrancy of naivety and birth (represented by the short stint of sunlight on “Nothing Is Real” and the sedate, glowing chimes during the outro to “New Seeds”)? Are these voices of the living heard to speak into their own phantom reflections? If so, it would seem appropriate that the record bares a slight glint of nostalgia toward the band’s warbly, lo-fi beginnings, as Boards Of Canada return to the quivering analogue frailty that was their birth, and could just beckon their death.