Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Boards of Canada - Tomorrow's Harvest

Released June 10, 2013

            In 1993, philosopher Jaques Derrida introduced the concept “hauntology” to explain how the romanticized past always overshadows our perception of the present.  Intended at the time as an explanation for continued Marxist undercurrents, this kind of nostalgic present-setting often appears in art, music included.  Enter Boards of Canada.  This band’s music contrasts a sweetened past to the perceived bitterness of the future, and with their newest release, Tomorrow’s Harvest, this tradition continues in an even darker direction.  Known for their mixing of ambient passages with song-like vignettes amongst 1970s analogue tones, the two Scottish brothers, Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin took their latest creation to an even darker plane than previous releases – nostalgic sounds like computer start-up tones and spoken word distort around one another between deep bass passages and slowed rhythm, making the ‘altered present’ even darker.
            Amongst different artist names, shifting membership, and changing labels, Boards of Canada comes from a history that is hard to pin down.  Their first directly traceable release, Twoism, appeared in 1992, and established the rough ambient-vignette format that we hear today.  In Tomorrow’s Harvest, songs like Palace Posy and New Seeds particularly stand out amongst the wash due to their surprising rhythmic and melodic complexity.  However, this is not an album to pick and choose random tracks from to listen to – it sounds best heard all-the-way through as motives of sound (both analogue and digital), textures, and specific moods appear and re-appear in contrasting ways. 
            Old fans of the band will certainly appreciate the darker progression that brings us to their latest release.  Many instances lead the listener to understand the album as fully orchestrated, every moment created with precise taste to contrast the present and the idealized past.  Those familiar will enjoy the familiar format with a more ominous mood.  However, if you’re new to the band, I would not suggest it as a good introduction to their work as a whole.  Instead, check out Geogaddi, as it comes off as lighter and contains less ambient material, includes a more clear contrast between ‘nostalgic’ bits and ‘present’ bits, and represents the turning-point in which Boards of Canada begins to grow dark.   Then, check out Tomorrow’s Harvest and see if it also has the ability to haunt.

            Suggested tracks: Palace Posy, Split your Infinities, New Seeds

            Similar artists: Aphex Twin, Bibio, Burial, Autechre, Tycho

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