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Positive Feedback ISSUE 69
september/october 2013


Boards of Canada, Tomorrow's Harvest
by Michael Mercer


boards of canada

This whole album sounds wide open. From the beginning, where an eighties-style television commercial sample (at least that's what it sounds like) comes out of the blue and only lasts a few seconds, to the end where the low end rumbles like a science fiction soundtrack, this Tomorrow's Harvest is an expansive electronic journey. It sounds like a clear-lit sky. How do you describe that? It ain't easy I assure you. Plus the record is so mesmerizing I found it difficult to write as I experienced the album, which is how I like to approach music reviews. Seriously, the ebb and flow of this record is sublime. The transitions between tracks are liquid. That said: this isn't music you work out to. I hate to use this term, and maybe I shouldn't, but it fits, this is electronica for the mellow. It's cerebral, not in an overly polished, homogenized way; it's more meditative, more organic-sounding. It washes over the soundstage with finesse, and the compositions, while simple, are captivating.

The cover art is a fitting reflection of the spirit of the music: a sun draping a city in sunlight, at either sunrise or dawn (who can tell), waking the zombie rat-race from their Facebook comas. "Reach For the Dead" is a stunning example of what it takes to make minimal electronic music beautiful. There are soaring synths, anthemic samples that rise through the soundstage, building around this electro-tribal groove, and it ends as silky smooth as it began. "Split Your Infinities" sounds well suited for soundtrack work. It's ascending synths and laser-like sweeps stretching from right to left, left to right, creating this fantastic feeling of width and depth. This scary, distorted vocal sample weaves in and out of the percussion and the keyboard line. It's a spacious affair. I love this stuff. This kind of music is great for all sorts of things: meditation, drowning out the co-worker in the next cubicle, or finding your center amidst an insanely stressful day. Tracks like “Nothing is Real” are the kind of music you'd hear playing in the background during a film, when the hero is deep in a contemplative moment, looking ahead in their lives. Or it could also accompany a scene where there's a revelation, or even just a beautiful sunrise! It's killer music for a country drive or a day at the beach. It's also great for inspiration—whether you're writing, painting, sculpting… anything creative, the soundscapes just open up your imagination. “New Seeds” in an ascending collage of guitars (and who knows what other string instruments), percussion, and these wispy synths that give it color as gold as a hazy sunrise.

Boards of Canada tapped into something ethereal on Tomorrow's Harvest, and they drag us along for the joyride. It's a splendid sonic voyage through cascading synthesizers, tight airy percussion, pulsing grooves, and a minimalistic approach to electronic music that sounds far wider and deeper than the elements themselves would indicate if you heard them clumped together in a more congested electronic landscape. They're not afraid to use space as compositional element either, which is something that James Blake is also a master of. This album calmed me down at times, and had me contemplating all sorts of things. It was a meditative experience for me, and so I highly recommend giving it a spin.