“Tomorrow’s Harvest,” the fourth album by Scottish ambient electronic duo Boards of Canada, begins with the sound of an audio logo, a quick “Intel inside"-suggestive mnemonic that vanishes as quickly as it arrives. The tones are followed by a moment of silence, and the effect is not unlike the strike of a bell before a meditation session. Immediately, the listener is transported into another world, one realized on computer but teeming with organic beauty.
Boards of Canada has crafted this kind of mysterious, humid, drenched instrumental music in its studio in Scotland for the last few decades, and the result on “Tomorrow’s Harvest” (its first full-length release in nearly eight years) is another visit down a Brian Eno-inspired wormhole, one in which each tone, though synthetically altered, feels handcrafted.
The snare, for example, in “Jacquard Causeway,” an ethereal post-trip-hop track, has a sonic footprint unlike any other snare-snap you’ll hear all year; it lingers pleasingly, as though the band had it made in a confectioner’s shop then placed it gently on the tongue. The humming organ tones on “Sick Times” are woven with texture with the care of a quilter. The soothing synthesizer harmonies on the drifting “Collapse” could be swiped from a mid-'80s New Age compilation.
That’s nothing new, though. The band has always traded in ambient warmth, a sound that’s immediately identifiable on “Tomorrow’s Harvest,” especially at an increased volume. Distant sampled voices stealthily drift through rhythms; some, like “Telepath,” contain utterances so integrated into the mix that you’re not sure if somebody has crept up behind you and is whispering in your ears.
Fans of Boards of Canada won’t find many fresh revelations, though, even if the record is gratifying. Any of these songs could have appeared at any point in the group’s discography. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A full-body massage, after all, is just as pleasing the fourth time as the first.
Boards of Canada
Three stars (out of four)