This week’s Selection is ambient legend Boards of Canada’s newest album: Tomorrow’s Harvest.
Before I get into talking about the album itself I first want to tell you all a little bit about Boards of Canada. When I entered university, round about 4 years ago, I had what one might call a stunted musical education. In high school I was your stereotypical angsty teen and I mostly listened to angry nu-metal type stuff. Anyway, long story short, up until I first heard Boards of Canada the extent of my knowledge of electronica music was Deadmau5 and The Bloody Beetroots, neither of whom I very much cared for. Then, one day, my good friend Dave (of Wednesday Wanderings fame) played me this song:
Hearing “Roygbiv”, and Boards of Canada, for the first time truly changed my world. I quite literally had no idea that music like this existed — I had never even heard of “Ambient” as a genre before, much less imagined that there was such a thing. All of a sudden I felt like there were these people out there who saw the world the way I did, who saw through all of the hustle and bustle of everyday life — through the cars and buildings and people and streets and noise — to the simple truths that lie beneath. The sighing of the wind, the movement of leaves on the trees, the patterns of light on the ground, the turning of the Earth… Boards of Canada is music that is beyond the normal scope of what most people deal with in their lives — it is both greater and lesser, above and below, so quiet as to be barely a whisper, and at the same time almost deafening in its magnitude.
Suffice to say I fell in love. For several months Boards of Canada was pretty much all that I listened to, and I listened to them all the time. Getting up in the morning, going to sleep at night, walking to and from class, while doing homework, playing video games, even while working out. Not everybody can appreciate the quiet, all-encompassing serenity that defines ambient music in general and Boards of Canada specifically, but if you can then it is music for all places and all times.
At some point during my Boards of Canada binge I realized that their (at the time) most recent album, The Campfire Headphase, had been released back in 2005, and that there was not even the slightest hint of anything new coming down the musical pipeline. As it turned out, the two ambient wizards from Scotland had decided to take a hiatus, so there was nothing I could do but wait. And wait. And wait…
In actual chronological terms I was only waiting about 2 or 3 years for the newest Boards of Canada album, but it felt like much longer, and I can only imagine what it must have been like for the Boards fans who were with them since the beginning. It has been 8 long years since The Campfire Headphase, and Boards of Canada fans everywhere have been patiently biding their time, just waiting for word from on high to bring them the glorious news…
Of course, just announcing an album release would have been much too easy. The crafty Scottish duo instead teased their fans for a while, releasing several short, cryptic audio and video clips with seemingly random strings of numbers attached, all pointing towards… something. Eventually, however, the code was broken through the power of Boards of Canada fans around the world united by the internet, and, after a really long wait, Tomorrow’s Harvest was announced.
Boards of Canada knows their audience. They know how long their fans have been waiting, they know how much their music means to us, and they know we expect big fucking things from this album. Boards shows us just how much they know what we want by starting the album off with a fanfare. An actual, honest to god, “take your seats the show is about to begin” fanfare. The rest of that first track, “Gemini”, is less dramatic but very much in keeping with the idea of an introduction to a performance. The music is creeping, soft, and slightly static-y, moving from one sound to another as though uncertain of where it is going to land. It does eventually reach a decision however, and resolves into what I think of as the first “real” song on the album: “Reach For The Dead”.
I mentally divide the music on this album (and Boards of Canada’s music in general) into 3 categories: “Real Songs” are intricate, layered, well developed, and have a progression to them such that you feel as though you are moving through something, or something is moving through you. The second category can best be termed “Interludes”. It consists of short, quiet, spacey tracks that are super chill and relaxed but don’t really go anywhere. “Uritual” is a perfect example: (the video has nothing to do with Boards of Canada, as far as I know, but I couldn’t find audio of “Uritual” in any other form)
The final category has the least amount of songs in it, which is great because it is also my least favorite. Boards of Canada has a few songs that should go with the interludes, because they don’t seem to go anywhere, but require their own category because they are really long. On Tomorrow’s Harvest, “Jacquard Causeway” is such a song. I’m sure the members of Boards of Canada are much more clever than I am, and I’m quite willing to believe that I simply don’t understand this song, but as far as I am concerned it is pretty much the same somewhat abrasive beat for like 6 and a half minutes. Luckily “Jacquard Causeway” is the only song of its kind on the album, and the majority of Tomorrow’s Harvest is made up of beautiful, intricate, “real” songs spread out very nicely with some super spacey interludes.
I cannot recommend Boards of Canada enough, and I highly suggest you all head over to the Bleep Boards of Canada page and buy yourselves a copy of Tomorrow’s Harvest. You can even pick up the album on vinyl, which is a big deal for Boards of Canada fans as all their other albums are really difficult to find in record form. I myself am waiting for my vinyl copy to arrive and I am sure when it does I will get an entirely new look at this most excellent album.
That’s all for now folks, see you next weekend!