Boards of Canada
There's a little 5-second horn flourish at the very beginning of "Gemini," the opening track on Tomorrow's Harvest, Boards of Canada's first release in seven years. It sounds like the musical tag that would accompany the logo of a film studio, after the previews and before the movie actually starts. The words "Castle Rock Entertainment" or "Paramount Pictures" may flash before your eyes when you hear it. You might picture a kid fishing in the night sky or a lion roaring or a creepy little girl pounding on a drum.
Honestly, the horn intro on "Gemini" is dinky enough to sound more like the intro to a video you'd watch in a high-school science class, but you get the idea. There is a cinematic air about Tomorrow's Harvest that is impossible to shake. And if this album is the score to a hypothetical movie, it's a movie about some future horror. There are very few moments in the album that aren't imbued with a sense of impending doom. It's a patient, engrossing, richly textured album equally interested in its overall effect as the emotion stirred at any particular moment.
In a recent interview, Michael Sandison said that Tomorrow's Harvest had a "deliberate VHS video-nasty element" running throughout it. He's clearly aware of the soundtrack-like quality of the album's scope and movement. It has been compared to John Carpenter's original soundtracks and the duo has acknowledged a loose lineage between the two, though the more direct influences (Fabio Frizzi, John Harrison, Mark Isham) are less recognizable names.
The seven years that have passed since the last Boards of Canada release has given them the opportunity to hone in on the ominous drone that only occasionally defined their sound in the past. A current of dark synths is the album's defining feature. But the rhythms are more edgy and vital than the "drone" label might entail. It is their task to split and bend the walls of tone which otherwise move slowly. The percussion takes this task seriously.
When more active melodies do emerge, like on "Nothing Is Real" and "Cold Earth," they are moments of respite from an otherwise sparse, harsh soundscape. Electronic music can be so fused with pop and ruled by hooks that hit hard and topple all over each other, an album this studied and challenging is a moment of respite itself. It's a breath of fresh (sinister, baleful, glacially slow) air.
Written by Griffen Fillipitch, Radio K volunteer