You really couldn't ask for a better time for a pair of electronic icons to emerge from hibernation. Daft Punk's Random Access Memories and Boards of Canada's Tomorrow's Harvest – announced within months of each other, under similarly secretive circumstances – represent each artist's first full-length statement in eight long years. And while it's doubtful there was any collusion between the two, both albums seem to have been inspired by the same basic idea: that electronic music just ain't what it used to be.
Boards of Canada were one of the leading lights of the influential British label Warp Records starting in the late Nineties, along with stars like Aphex Twin and Autechre. The Scottish duo's first two widely released albums – 1998's Music Has the Right to Children and 2002's Geogaddi – broke new ground and went on to inspire a new wave of experimental artists, including current Warp signees like Flying Lotus and Mount Kimbie. After just one more LP, they more or less went silent. That ends next week. Skepticism is probably inevitable after such a long break, but three days spent listening to Tomorrow's Harvest suggest that the time off has worked in their favor. Here are just a few tracks that stood out on repeat listens.
"Reach For The Dead"
This is the only leaked track from the album thus far, and it's undoubtedly a highlight. The formula is simple – one heavily distorted vocal sample stretched and splayed over a trip-hop inspired drum pattern – but the results are phenomenal.
Boards of Canada return to their lo-fi roots on this track with a flimsy vintage synth that bobs and weaves, bolstered at the halfway mark by atmospheric effects and background noise. The synth melody is guided by a clunky, off-kilter drum pattern that slaps you across the face like a beat from an avant-garde smith like Madlib or Samiyam.
Words can't do this song justice. The half-time drum pattern is a mix of trip-hop and dubstep, but it also contains hints of breakbeat and lounge – two once-influential genres rarely mentioned these days. On top are vocal samples chopped precisely to fit with breaks in the song.
Returning to more modern influences, "Sick Times" combines the warbled bass of a Burial track with BoC's signature feeling of mellow detachment.
This is one of a handful of dance-worthy tracks on the album, marking a departure from BoC's traditionally insular tone. Working from a pop-inspired framework, the track contains an upbeat synth melody that swells and contracts before abruptly fading out.
"Come To Dust"
Some tracks on this album seem to take cues from cutting-edge dubstep acts like King Midas Sound; this one integrates the more basic structure of progenitors like Digital Mystikz. The simple half-time rhythm leaves room for BoC to gracefully experiment with several opposing melodies that all end up neatly complimenting each other toward the end.