Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest (Warp)

The Scottish electronic duo return with their fourth full-length album and do not disappoint

Released Jun 10th, 2013 via Warp / By Norman Miller
Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest (Warp) Boards of Canada – Scottish brothers Mike Sandison and Marcus Eoin – aren't the most productive of folk, but what they do give us tends to be sublime. Only their fourth studio album since the gorgeous 1998 debut Music Has The Right To Children, this sees them develop and expand on that (plus intervening albums Geogaddi and The Campfire Headphase, along with various EPs) while adding something new.

Or rather, something old; the duo seem to have spent at least part of the seven years since last blessing us with dispatches from their Caledonian hideaway by listening to Vangelis and early Tangerine Dream – which, in the hands of BoC, is a good thing.

Take opener ‘Gemini’, where the band's exalted way with melody is set against a thread of staccato Vangelis synth, along with an aural unease from a TD album like Phaedra or Michael Hoenig's magnificent 1978 album Departure From The Northern Wasteland. Nearly all 17 tracks here are short and to-the-point – clear statements of rhythmic and melodic intent, whose brevity makes much of Tomorrow's Harvest seem like a lost film soundtrack.

Try it: dig out a copy of Blade Runner, cue up the middle six or seven tracks here from, say, ‘Transmisiones Ferox’ to ‘Sundown’, and enjoy a synthesis of 1980s cinematic brilliance with a magnificent homage from three decades later – thick smears of electronic wash and staccato brittle synth augmented by BoC modern muscular electronica.

But the album also provides plenty of fine examples of BoC's thrilling ability with beautifully melancholic melody as a thread that pulls you sweetly through other stylistic tropes: the simple, almost tribal, drum sounds set into flickering, drifting synth on ‘Reach For The Dead’, or the hefty blend of electronic thuds, jitters and swoops on ‘Come To Dust’.

Only two tracks break the album's general short-and-sweet rule to pass the five-minute mark. ‘Jacquard Causeway’ takes electronic skirls, nodding to bagpipe pibroch music, and develops them into almost polka rhythms set against a slow mechanical machine pulse. ‘New Seeds’, by contrast, is a startling half-speed digital mash-up of a Scottish country hoedown, its niggling beats glittering with bright aural flourishes.

Other highlights include the brilliantly loping loops of ‘Palace Posy’ and the classical minimalism of ‘Uritual’, on an album that marks a very welcome return from a distinctive band who, at their best, come close to electronica perfection.