Boards Of Canada Tomorrow’s Harvest

[Warp; 2013]

Styles: turquoise warchalk, hexagonal hermeneutics
Others: Hell Interface, Umberto, Carpenter & Howarth, Danny Wolfers, In Search Of…

“As the big toe of a saint’s statue gradually disappears under the onslaught of his devotees’ kisses, so the Big Toe of reality dissolves slowly but Inexorably under perpetual exposure to the continuous Kiss of mankind. The higher the density of a civilization — the more metropolitan it is — the higher the frequency of the Kiss, the faster the process of consumption of the reality of nature and artifacts.”
– Remi Koolhaas, Delirious New York

“I don’t work for Warp, and am just a college kid who idolizes this group.”

There are so many reasons to blow a kiss: you can find them carved into lonely trees on borough recreation grounds and in the handbags of mothers who died in traffic accidents; you can hear them on the radio in a sleeping ship or in the whispers of strangers on the tube. Of course, a blown kiss is both a failed and a hopeful kiss — as a kiss, it fails because it only rehearses the beginning, because its expression is primarily visible; as a signal, its degree of hope is proportionate to its range. The potency of these hopeful failures lie in their precision: a blown kiss doesn’t miss; its significance is on the side of the kisser and not the kissed. When a loved one leaves, we blow them a kiss to reassure ourselves that we can’t be left behind.

As the encrypted 12-inch promos for Tomorrow’s Harvest settled in record store racks like tiny dunes of ash from a distant explosion, social knotworks tangled with blown kisses, with tiny acts of solipsistic re-mapping. Kisses were blown at something other than abstraction. There was a hope that something still alive, if barely breathing, squirmed beneath these dissonant layers of glassy drones.

This is my blown kiss, my definition of the title: tomorrow’s harvest, a well-appointed dotage; the privileged fiddling of the successful, of the eminently marketable, of those who have grasped our attention by the root. When, during “Reach For The Dead,” the album gathers itself for the first time into the frost of a glacial arpeggio lifted straight from the collected works of Carpenter & Howarth (& Barrow & Salisbury), there is no subliminal message that, once discerned, would elevate this dawdling retread above the more full-blooded, embodied Splatalo experiments of Umberto, Maiovvi, and Harris; the drizzly Cold War insinuations of Falckenhaus; or the modular psychedelia of Ian Martin and Daniel Lopatin. What’s left is close to what Dick called kipple: the contemporary shorn of relevance; luxuriating junk.

Paradoxically, a clarity of vision can obscure the whole: on the cover, the urban skyline that looms over the surrounding countryside succinctly condenses the multiple thorny negotiations required of a band that may have become hemmed in by its own aesthetic. “Nothing Is Real” and “Jacquard Causeway” sound like a band completely at home in its method; “Come To Dust” and “Split Your Infinities” sound like a band that has run out of ideas. A narrowing of focus has brought about a hitherto unfamiliar scrappiness. There is a lack of any cumulative intensity, fatal for a band so preoccupied with fashioning some ersatz narrative out of every release.

Where the dog-eared, snapshot ambient wooze of Twoism and Geogaddi once harbored a feverish throb, Tomorrow’s Harvest now prickles with hollow spaces: a fragmentary, pixelated symbolism has been lost in the construction of an outline of a broader system. The guitars of The Campfire Headphase and Trans Canada Highway may have gone, but the over-earnest key changes and restricted palette remain. The impish spirits that once cried “Orange? Yeah, that’s right!” as if it was some sort of mission statement have withered into a minatory chorus of indiscriminate dissent; allusive, tangential moments of whimsy have, in general, become harder to pick out against an increasingly dazzling backdrop of millennial angst and off-grid worthiness.

The lasting impression I get from Tomorrow’s Harvest is that Boards of Canada have become a desultory, diminished force. It will surely sell millions.

Links: Boards Of Canada - Warp

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