For any electronica act who surround themselves with a sense of mystery, all reference points will eventually lead to Boards Of Canada. I should know as I’ve compared to them to countless acts over the years, lazy journalist that I am. Whether it’s the sounds of muffled childrens’ voices or unheard samples of space shuttle recordings, Boards Of Canada are your go-to act. ‘Tomorrow’s Harvest’ is only their fourth album (they started trading in 1986) and one which was announced via some typically cryptic advertising. The sounds on the album itself are just as oblique yet somehow familiar.
Those usual reference points are there. The album begins with what sounds like the title sequence to a 1970’s regional TV channel, there are samples of an aged scientist counting “1, 2, 3, 4” and everything is covered in a shroud of eeriness. ‘Reach For The Dead’ is the first track which brings on those sinister, elegiac feelings; the leaden-paced beats and glacial wash of keyboards are certainly worthy of the track title. This highly effective start is surpassed, however, by the superb track number four, ‘Jacquard Causeway’. It too begins in relatively unassuming fashion with a Portishead-style percussive loop which is accompanied by initially random alien noise yet soon the lines of communication become less blurred as the alien noise becomes more complex and melodic and the air of frenzy, urgency and no little sadness is the result.
Thereafter Boards Of Canada seem to settle into a homogeneous version of themselves with little to distinguish one track from the next. Moments such as the beats vs space-y atmosphere ‘Sick Times’ sound like a group trying to emulate the BOC style but without reaching the required ethereal heights. Exceptions are the rubbery (and I suppose lovely) ‘Palace Posy’ and the machine-made elegance of ‘Nothing Is Real’ whilst the rhythms to ‘New Seeds’ resemble none other than early Simple Minds.
So overall it’s business as usual for Boards Of Canada. Their air of mystique and unidentifiable nostalgia is maintained and there is an admirable seamlessness to all their records which many of their peers cannot match. However, there is also that nagging thought at the back of the mind which makes one wonder whether they deserve the praise that tends to be thrust on them, since this album is made up of several great tracks and lots of suggestions they are recycling their own past.