OKAY, SO I’VE auditioned BOC’s new one everywhere possible: in the glorious sweet spot of my hi-fi, on the crappy little kitchen iPod dock, on the barely cogent car stereo, on my very unrevealing computer speakers, and with cans clamped on my noggin in the boggin (I might be lying about the last one). And you know what? Wherever and whenever I try to get to the bottom of the conundrum, I’m just reminded of what a dull, listless, unadventurous and even rather generic sounding album this is.
Yes, I know they created the genre, but that makes their giant lapse even more galling. And yes, I’ve read all the rave reviews, and I can only surmise that the authors were still in short pants when Music Has The Right To Children hit the stands in 1998, and feel that they have the right to acclaim a Boards Of Canada album 15 years later, even if it is bog standard fodder.
So now that I’ve already used the word ‘bog’ twice in a review, can I tell you why I think Tomorrow’s Harvest is a shitter?
What differentiated Boards Of Canada from the legions of serious young men making sounds with samplers and laptops in the mid-to-late ‘90s was the sheer character of their music. There’s a certain trapped-inside-the-machine flavour to a lot of electronic laptopiary (good word, huh?) that, as clever and inventive as a lot of that era’s artists were, meant that the music often simply lacked that characterful twist that rouses it to life. BOC sounded just as circuit-bent as the other electronic boys, but magically, they invented a picaresque sonic universe (or at least Garden of Eden) that was teeming with texture, nostalgia, atmosphere and emotion.
I was never keen to learn how they conjured that magic, because I didn’t want it to disappear on me, but by Geogaddi (2002), while the sonic signature was much the same, it was clear the life force was slowly seeping away, and the duo’s seeming writer’s block meant that we got no real insight or continuity.
I know it’s a big ask. That first album was so significant that anything that came after was bound to be measured by the magnificence of the debut. But that’s life.
Tomorrow’s Harvest is blighted, an interminable 17 pieces of overly somber electronic music that occasionally asserts itself. But honestly, the tracks that actually sound like BOC are few and far between; the rest of the time, a blindfold test would reveal that they’re indistinguishable from a host of similar electronic bands. I’m not a big fan of NZ’s Rhian Sheehan, but his latest album is at least as good as this massive underachievement.
The worst thing about Tomorrow’s Harvest is that its aspirations are so low. It’s not that it’s awful, or even poor, but that with a few exceptions, this could be any album of vaguely lunar electronics. GARY STEEL
Music = 3/5
Sound = 3.5/5