Sounds like Boards of Canada. In the early years of this century, you heard many electronic music aficionados using that phrase, usually in the context of an endorsement. The Scottish brothers Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin didn’t invent a new sound, but they did take various strands of music floating around and pull them into one place and essentially perfect them. And their particular fusion was so distinctive that their name became shorthand. The appetite for the BoC was so voracious that the group’s actual output, which was actually fairly prolific in its first decade, wasn’t nearly enough to satisfy it. But that was a long time ago. Since 2006 we’ve heard a lot of music that seems spiritually connected to Boards of Canada, from Burial to chillwave, but we haven’t heard a note of music from the originators until the surprise announcement of Tomorrow’s Harvest.
Given its hermetic feel, it makes sense BoC have indicated that soundtracks were an especially big influence. They specifically invoke the work of John Carpenter, Mark Isham, and Wendy Carlos, all of whom constructed some of their most enduring scores in the late 1970s and early 80s. That was a period where analog synthesis was reaching full maturity but digital synthesis was in its earlier stages, when the tape-driven Mellotron competed for studio space with the digital Fairlight and new timbres were being explored. If the earliest Boards of Canada music still seemed inspired by Warp’s post-techno Artificial Intelligence movement, beats on Tomorrow’s Harvest are secondary. The tempos are generally slow, and there’s not much trickiness to the percussion. The tracks tend to create a groove and stick with it for the duration.
What we’re left with is Boards of Canada’s moodiest record, a full-length tinted with atmosphere that unfolds slowly and is happy to allow you to come to it. Creating a new way to hear electronic music, as they did in the first half of their career, earned them that right to make a record that is absorbed through osmosis. And true to its patient nature and long gestation period, Tomorrow’s Harvest’s last third is its best. As they move from the ultra-simple, Music for Films-like “Sundown” through the soot-dusted “New Seeds”, with its quiet guitar grind and bell-like percussion, and then on through the arpeggiated Tangerine Dream-style “Come to Dust” and the the closing bass-pedals of “Semena Mertvykh”, it’s clear that they still, after all this time and all the imitators, own this world. And it’s nice to hear that they’re still inhabiting it. –Pitchfork