The point at which a sonically mapped sketch becomes a fully fledged song per se is at best a pretty acute one, and never is this more so than when entangled with the intricate meshes renowned of most electronic musics. Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin have been rehashing the blueprint, and with it continually reevaluating that very conundrum since the mid ’80s when, well beyond their time, they began sculpting crackle-addled soundscapes of commensurate allure to their native highlands under the guise of Boards of Canada. Technological advancement, when charted against the brothers’ infrequent release scheduling, has since caught up with them somewhat although that’s not to say that there are any more practitioners of ambient electronica coming close to them now as there were then, for the Scots remain a resolutely singular proposition.
Nonetheless in light of the full release of their fourth studio full-length, Tomorrow’s Harvest, it now seems apt that the duo should’ve opted to eke out our impatience with bits and snippets here and there in the buildup to their first long-player in some eight achy years, for whilst comprising an unprecedented number of starkly discernible songs the record is itself outwardly punctuated by sketchy interludes. The biliously galactic Telepath; the extraneous undulations of Transmisiones Ferox; the sinister extraterrestriality of Uritual; and the slight sci-fi inertia of Sundown all provide conspicuous examples of just this. And yet to deem these utterly superfluous pieces is to grant them a severe disservice for although a little lacking in industry, these seem to represent the stellar coordinates from which the record can then be so scrupulously plotted. So whereas these can be likened to lonesome stars, it’s only once these particles are so proficiently combined by their progenitors that we are able to fully visualise the blinding constellations that certain other compositions here contained can then become. And sporadically, the shapes these make can transpire to take some fairly wondrous forms…
Opener Gemini, with its chintzy intro pastiche like a postdated ’70s NASA musical leitmotif, soon assumes gusto to become a sort of vortical void of fierce gravitational pull with skittering samples whirring around fragmented arpeggios and guttural blurts of bass. It’s frenzied, if oddly decelerative and renders the impression of being left in an intergalactic lurch for all of an infinity. Beyond its actually concise running time of two, fifty-seven lies the equivalently curt White Cyclosa – another otherworldly mélange of aloof bloops and eddying mesmerism. Though that the former fades to silence before it flows into the latter only enhances this abiding perception of song presiding over accurately cut and exactly pasted sketch, and the album as a cohesive entity of course profits from this.
Indeed, it’s been some while since Sandison and Eoin last engineered a piece of efficacious coherence on a par with Jacquard Causeway, during which an unrepentantly simplistic live drum loop flagrantly accents the involuted electronic sorcery to fizzle, hum and echo about it. Dismantled are the commonly accepted pretences of electronica, permitting the pair to instead construct what is a superficially facile, yet instantly impactive arrangement. Elsewhere, whilst New Seeds may initially sound like Jovian critters savagely feasting on wayward space cadets, it soon settles into a metronomic groove that’s decidedly attuned to the human being’s eternal restlessness and insatiable thirst for movement, before it blossoms almost seasonally in its lattermost moments. Commotion, meanwhile, comes with the nauseating wooziness of Sick Times – mangled broadcasts incurring a sense of invasive intrusion – and the fidgety difficulties inextricably linked with Split Your Infinities.
Although interconnecting the record are three particularly bedazzling formations which immaculately array the breadth of the brothers’ pooled talents, the first of which is the adagio crescendoing of a vigorously rousing Reach For The Dead which, in its dying minutes, develops into something which is not only positively delectable, but that so too borders on orchestral bombast. To delineate as feels appropriate, the next is the appositely surrealist weave of Nothing Is Real which, hinging on trippy bits of glitch and twinkly, limitless loops resembles an aesthetic so remarkably accessible that it harks back to the likes of Dayvan Cowboy and ’84 Pontiac Dream, before we finally arrive at the confidently breathtaking Come To Dust – a work which euphorically expresses Michael and Marcus’ only infrequent incursion into heaving nightspot territories.
But Tomorrow’s Harvest belongs not in the gutter, and instead to the stars above from whence is shines resplendent. It’s been quite some wait, but our patience has been so emphatically vindicated that we ought reap the rewards today, for there could yet be light years distancing this from their next endeavour…
Released: June 11th, 2013 [Warp]