Last Year’s Harvest

January 8, 2014

It is said before this album, Tomorrow’s Harvest, was released, the label invited listeners to go to the desert. And there they played the entire album accompanied by visuals. Even if I haven’t seen any video clips from that scene, the knowledge of it alone has had a great impact on the listening experience.

Prior to this release, Boards of Canada was mostly active before I started listening to electronic music. I regret that I only got to know about them in last June, when suddenly the entire electronic music community was flooded and thrilled by the news of BoC’s return. I couldn’t remember how it felt when listening to the preview, or the full leak. Perhaps didn’t appreciate it too much, that is, compared to today’s feeling. I figure I decided to buy it partially also out of awe for Warp records. But as soon as I got my hand on the hard copy, I couldn’t get it off.

A trumpet opens the curtain and briefly calls for attention. Immediately I’m drawn to the outer space. Everything becomes still. The emergence of the periodic rumbling and the electronic noise on top are as if an approaching old spaceship, gradually covers half of the sight. It then fades to the other side with its unfinished mission. Last December I was supposed to see the Geminids. But the stormy weather didn’t allow this, leaving me with a small sigh.

As I’m pondering over the lost sound, the next second I’m brought down by an earthly power. Reach For the Dead is the one. Isn’t this earth the whole world when I’m down on it. Isn’t this earth so vast and solemn. I’m watching the polar dawn over the ice blue landscape and focusing on the subtle friction. It could be a lone traveller’s dragging leg over the snow. How I love hearing this granular grinding. How I wish to be decomposed to be one particle of that sound. Now, I hear Trance fade in. I think this must be Trance, non other is. Because the slowly but surely rippling sound wave comes to overwhelm my consciousness. There it goes “Listen” – and it intensifies. An un-resting oscillation floating above the silent ground, the memories from the past racing through the present mind, until even the pillars of percussions couldn’t sustain it and give way to the quelling orchestra. This tranquilizing effect must be the work of the force of gravity. As I’m ready to close my eyes in peace, a transient coupling of broken hats keeps my arms reaching out. But I never got hold of anything.

White Cyclosa walks on the same frequency lane. The same work station. The same channel noise. And the huge telescopes ever pointing to that direction with their inquiring eyes.

Up until now, the stream of inner feelings have been coherent. But the longest track in the entire album brings a strong disturbance to “the Force”. I have long mistaken this as Sick Times. But now I know it’s Jacquad Causeway. The disharmony in the last two minutes does give a rise in the blood pressure. I’d hope I could appreciate it more some time later. By then, I’ll gladly review it again.

A deep breath. The cover art is presented by Telepath. Behind the blurring daylight hides the civilization in its twilight. The heavily distorted message is from the forgotten days. “One, two, th…threee…fourouur…” The cold synth echoes its antiquety. It can be found when replaying it that the opening pitch is the same as that of the closing. Itself also forms a cyclic signal quite like the repeating broken tape contained in its body. We always assume periodicity of our signals in electrical engineering.

All the music is dominated by a sense of coldness. Cold Earth, by the way, doesn’t feel particularly cold. It’s like watching into the distance in a fast moving train on the desert plain. All there is is the earth in its untouched wilderness. Weeds, eroded rocks. I love how the monotonous scenery is broken down by a number of brilliant turns. A spike of clang followed by a deep dive of the bass. Two overloading strikes at opposite extremities. And I can’t fail to mention the percussion design that empowers the steady movement.

“Nineteen ninety nine… ” with electric shocks pumping in. Eventually Transmisiones Ferox leads to a bright feather world. And by high contrast, Sick Time begins with a concentrated strumming of the chords. The sparsely sampled human voices dotted rhythmically around the percussions somehow induce a strong post-technology era sentiment. And it grows a little poignant that I find hard to bear. Must be a wild imagination caused by the struggling immune system.

Collapse is about the ever propagating ultrasound wave. It rushes towards an unknown chaotic destination as I watch. And a clear composition draws away my line of sight. After a joyful trek, Palace Posy generously reveals its hidden wonderland. I saw people singing and dancing on the carpet made of clouds before I was carried away out to the clear skies.

The Trance element riding on top of the ambience creates a pressing sense in Split Your Infinities. The fractal patterns are branching rapidly, conveying a sacred message through its form. Unrecognizable speech, electronic budding, loosely structured beats and oblique bassline characterize the later half. While Uritual is composed of simple repetition of two hesitant expressions, supported by unstable voltage and current. It feels like neverending uncertainty.

Amidst all this coldness is a little shimmering warmth. Nothing Is Real. It’s an imagination of exposure to the mildest touch of the winter sun in polar night. When the human speech comes in, it is so reminiscent of Way Out West’s Earth, that same scent of tenderness. Behind the leaves, there is the tickling of flying elf children; there is vibration of the wings of small insects. As it fades, everything blends into some rosy substance, blessed by that last few rays of benign sunlight.

Slowly I come to the other side of the moon, watching the horizon nibbling away the radiant plate. And I’m back to this deep night to be lost in thought.

Yet another rapid change of scene. At first New Seeds may sound a bit clumsy. Like putting much labour into marching. But the main theme introduces a clear intention. All this is with an endurable purpose. As the music proceed towards the last two minutes, a soft melody reveals itself with gradually greater assurance. It changes course freely at ease. I would follow it wherever just to continue to behold it. But I have no time to feel sorry for eventually losing it.

The moment Come To Dust unleashes it’s power, my breath is taken away. Its splendor is manifested not by delicate decoration, but by its majestic composure. Every added instrument is a new dimension. And they are ever-stretching along their own dimensions, expanding into this free space. And again here appears the quasi-periodic sinusidal trance. It rolls across every dimension, and they become nonlinearly intertwined. The mountainous beats are the perpetual motion machine, pushing this being growing into the space itself. The furthest sound shines from high above like a light tower clearing the vision. It’s like the purest choir that are capable of turning each upsurging into translucent crystal. And that piercing and twisting sound vortex trailing till the end is the mixture of my understanding and my perceptions invoked all in this four minutes.

Desolation, dead air, heat wave. The flickering, sometimes discontinuous flow of sounds mimic the disturbance of sight by the rising hot air. The desert in its dream recollects the brief flash of human activity now nowhere to trace. It then falls back into sleep in its dream waiting as always in this timeless static. If I had heard nothing in ambient music in the past, now I hear every molecule of meaning flowing through this ambience. Thus Semena Mertvykh concludes the trip across the realm of consciousness.

The scenes emerged in my mind when listening to Tomorrow’s Harvest have always been closely associated with what I have read last year. The nuanced daily life in 2001 A Space Odyssey, the invasion of the sea and ordinary nature into human civilization in Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou. Most frequently, the weed covered old time high ways, the road lights shining under the sea, all these under that same sky adorned by a few clouds. More than ever I yearn for the nightfall of the civilization. A dwindling civilization where technology is ubiquitous but invisible, where people are a handful but tranquil, where they roam free in the universe and become of it. May the days be aimless, let the earth be still and thoughtful again.

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