The way the hype around the new Boards of Canada album has snowballed is a study in the way things can take on a life of their own on the Internet. Before someone found a weird white-label record in Other Music on Record Store Day, BoC were a well-respected IDM duo that was so secretive it took the world the best part of a decade to discover that its members were brothers, and whose devoted fan base had been hoping against hope for the last few years that they might make another record. In the six weeks since, a masterfully executed publicity campaign has seen the levels of anticipation behind that new record build to Daft Punk-esque proportions. The record finally streamed in full late yesterday afternoon via the band’s website. And, um, it sounds like Boards of Canada.
This is entirely fine with me — Music Has the Right to Children still gets a fairly regular workout on my stereo, especially when I’m writing, and as such I’m delighted that 15 years on, the band are releasing another record that fits right next to that record in their discography. On first listen (and I’m literally listening to it right now), Tomorrow’s Harvest is exactly what one might expect from a new Boards of Canada record: it’s characterized by generally downtempo beats, intricately beautiful production, and lots of atmospheric synth sounds. It’s difficult to come up with any meaningful analysis or detailed description on the strength of one listen, but suffice it to say that if you liked the band’s early work, you’ll probably like this.
More interesting, though, is what the bazillion people who currently have the band trending on Twitter — to the extent that the site seemed to crash briefly when the stream started — will make of it. It’s somewhat refreshing that huge numbers of people are getting super-excited about new music from an act that isn’t, y’know, Ke$ha. But still, I genuinely can’t believe that everyone on Twitter going crazy about this record actually liked Boards of Canada before now. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that there must be a decent amount of people out there who, having dutifully tuned in to the widely advertised stream, are thinking something along the lines of, “This shit is super weird but I guess I’m supposed to like it?”
The idea of music as branded product is something that’s been discussed a great deal over the last week or so, apropos of Kanye West’s publicity campaign and the acquisition of Tumblr by Yahoo (I’ll be writing more about this in due course), and in this respect, the fact that such an unlikely band can be the recipient of such huge amounts of hype over such a short period of time. Clearly there has to be some level of genuine affection for the artist to start with, and there’s no doubt that this would always be a much-anticipated record. But there’s a difference between getting a bunch of Pitchfork readers excited and breaking Twitter, and in this case, the difference is pretty much attributable to the band’s branding.
If even some of the people swept up in the the publicity end up loving the record, then clearly this is a good thing for everyone. Happily, in this case, it seems to be the best of both worlds; the album’s just coming to an end as I write this, the last track winding down in a Basinski-esque haze of decaying string samples and a faintly ominous background drone, and it’s been a pretty great listen. It sounds like Boards of Canada, which is basically what the band’s fans have been hoping for all this time. And everyone else? Well, hopefully they enjoyed it, too. Next week we’ll find out whether they liked it enough to buy it.