On the 10th June, 2013, Boards of Canada released “Tomorrow’s Harvest,” the duo’s fourth studio album. Like most of their albums, it’s a bitch of an affair to understand. A young but wily Stretch MacGibbon purchased the record with his very own money and listened and listened and thought that he must write a review, despite many saying ‘But Stretch, who cares?.’ Five months later after intensely battling his usual alcohol and crinkled crisp fetishes, the final words were completed. Here they are, if you must.
Broadski Shallowslope (November 8th, 2013)
This funky munki is entering Gemini in the hope to understand the meaning of this record. Castor and Pollux are waiting. Pollux, yeah that guy, a cross between a bad word and a type of paint and Castor, yeah y’knaa, some kind of oily substance. The sound of a synthesised trumpet starts the trip into a universe where David Cronenberg once spawned his evil machinations. Castor, despite being dead, ended up being immortal and a constellation to boot. How did that feel Castor? “It da bomb.” He was always the quieter one (pretentious plastic bag loving prick). They both went on to appear with Demi “funny eyes” Moore and Andrew “girlyhead” McCarthy in St Elmo’s Fire, which features a horny saxophone solo by an extremely sweaty Rob Lowe. Luckily he had a cool headband which mopped up some of the expulsion.
I feel disoriented at the isolation of the Fog-like drone, as if those sailors are coming for you and this time they don’t wanna walk slow. Choppy waters envelope this munki’s mind and the journey is about to begin. Castor and Pollux have fucked off somewhere, probably behind some nebula, filthy fuckers.
A drum beat comes in and I feel wet. An industrial sound scape with a beautiful melancholic air sees me on to the next part of my journey. The bass line pushes me into the sky where I see orange and pink clouds, sorta like a gay Unionist lodge meeting. They scare me and I scream. I see a horny swan battling through the clouds, where is it going?
The beat grows strong and I can’t reach this bird. Am I reaching for the dead? Is this what that means? The funereal funk has me expectant, but it drifts and the swan is gone. Laughing, Castor and Pollux mock me. They tell me the swan is Zeus and I say, “say wha?” They say, “Aw yeah.” They explain that it is their father Zeus. He is off to try and score Leda, their mother. Apparently she has a thing for Swans, an avian perversion unknown to me. Avian! Ollie, AVIAN! I think this is pretty weird, but they say that it needs to be, as this is the how they became who they were. Zeus would rape Leda and they would be the offspring. Riiiight.
The music comes through me again and I feel like I’m looking down at a cold windy beach on a sunny day. They laugh again and tell me my journey is still long, but not as long as the Lord of the Rings which they tell me is really, really long and shouty.
I land on the earth and push through ordinary looking saplings, but one tree is different. It is patchy and I soon realise it is full of spiders, mostly small but one giant motherfucker resides in the middle. Castor tells me to be careful. “What do you want?” says the black and white big spider. It bangs a rhythm like a helicopter. I ask if those other spiders are its children. Pollux gravely announces, “No, idiot, they are its prey.” It creates spider-like shapes from its prey to camouflage itself apparently. This is pretty fucked up I think and wish I’d brought my worn pocketbook on arachnids. Alas, I didn’t and that anxious feeling returns. The whole time a choppy high-pitched beat has come through my fur and then quietly fades away.
“Where are you going” says the spider.
“To the harvest.” I say without thinking.
“Sounds good, think I’ll come.”
I say fair enough, not wanting to remind the presumptuous eight-legged freak (a cyclosa, it turns out) that he hadn’t been invited.
We marched through the trees to an open pathway, where stone mossy green walls lit up our sad evening. It was the brightest moss this munki had ever seen. I was glad to be on the ground. Heights give me the willies. Willies give me the willies, but that’s another story. I didn’t tell the others. Willies is a weird thing to say to any stranger anyway, never mind the odd company I was in.
We came to an enormous grey lake, which shined under the patchy clouds. The light changed as the speedy clouds fluttered around our heads. Castor and Polllux soared and seemed to have great fun. They fought and swooped, but with graceful ease. They shimmered. I couldn’t help admiring the twins. But what was this journey I was on? What end? Something gave me a sense of gloom. I was excited, expectant but this didn’t seem to be a happy voyage. Down the hill I walked with the spider, who seemed to be keeping an eye or two on me.
“What?” I said.
“A nuthin” he replied with a wink or three.
“We will need to cross this water by train. The man Jacquard will lead us across.” said he.
Who the fuck is this now? I thought. A two carriage diesel engined train appeared from out of nowhere. It was green and red, with gold wheels and a sliver of smoke coming from the chimney on the cab. It provoked in me the longing of a child reading a model train catalogue. I wanted it real bad.The spider saw my expression and said to me, “I know!” I looked at him and thought that was far too valley girl a way to say that, and shuffled forward keeping my eye on his Reese Witherspoon ass. He eyed me angrily.
I said, “Don’t you eyeballs me.”
A disfigured old man, younger than Mandela, older than Castro waited with a filthy cap on his head. He waved a violet flag and a mad gush of steam spilled from the chimney.
“Get in and be quicker than quick. I ‘ave littul time to be dealing with monsieurs like you.”
We climbed into one of the carriages. The cyclosa was wearing gold brogues and tapped in beat as we walked. Clack-clack-clack-clack-clack-clack-clack-clack he went. This irritating rhythm.
“Jesus this is going to be a long journey.” smirked Castor.
We all laughed, for the first time.
Jacquard did not laugh, as was his right.
The carriage was filled with jars of embryos. Every type of pickled creature you could imagine, except munkis (thank fuck me). Thank fuck me there were no munkis. Did I say that or think it? Damn parentheses! This made me feel pretty goddamn good. The train whistled in a distorted way like a stupid child trying to whistle or a stupid man on a bus trying to whistle a tune no one wants to hear. This continued as the wheels made a sound not too unreminiscint of Ivor the fucking Engine. The dark mahogany walls and surfaces gave me that gloomy funereal feeling again. Is this what death is like?
“Who is driving the train?” I asked.
“I am.” said Jacquard.
“Eh, you are here, the cab is after the next carriage.”
“Would you like me to explain?” he eyed me with a sinister curl of his lip, or eyes, no lips, eyes. Ah fuck, I think I’m hallucinating. The spider pulled out a pipe and lit it, sending sweet smoke around the carriage. The smoke was heavy, but not invasive.
“What’s in the next carriage?” he asked.
“The dead.” replied the old fucker.
“Looks like the dead are here” said the spider eyeing the glass jars.
“But they are not dead, Monsieur Araignée. They have not even lived yet.”
The old man stopped, his eyes went to the back of his head and he started chanting.
“Testing, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.”
He drew out certain numbers and his raspy voice freaked us all out. The ceiling of the train became translucent and showed the sky at dusk. A dark blue base faded to cyan and then to a deep rust. It became noisy.
“There was no ceiling. You just imagined it. Many of you will die.” he cried.
He went on to explain that the remains in the other carriage were the immigrant victims of an industrial factory fire and he was bringing them home to the their final resting place. The rest of us looked at each other and in harmony and probably thought,
The train would occasionally let out loud blasts of noise not unlike screaming sirens fed through a Moog. We sat silently watching the landscape go by. The trip had stalled. There was nothing to do. Nothing to say. Nothing to eat. The embryos didn’t look pleasant and every now and then if you turned your head, it looked like one had snapped its eyes shut. I shifted uncomfortably on my hammock.
“Testing, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.”
“This is quite close.”
“one, two, three, four, fiiiiiiiiiiive….”
The train stopped. Jacquard got up. Flicked a switch on an ancient looking chifforobe and the vista vanished. A pounding tapping forced us all to close our eyes. It got cold and the steam came out of all available orifices. There was no train, no Jacquard. Yet, the jars of embryos remained. All glassy on the ground. All eyes open. They were counting in slurpy tones.
Castor and Polllux grew fearful and flew up from the scene and stood mid-air, arms folded watching the dreadful scene. The pickled fish, birds and small rodents were upright in their jars, with fins, paws, whatever scratching against the glass and were spouting those familiar numbers at us.
“Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Barry Adamson, Marion Cotlillard, Paul McGrath,” was all I could think to utter.
The cyclosa took his chance to sate its hunger. Dived on a jar and with one leg anchored to the ground, managed to get a jar open. You could almost see the confusion on its face as the pickled squirrel inside, jerked its head up and dragged him into the jar.
With that all forty jars exploded and a huge airplane roared over me throwing Castor and Pollux down to the icy earth.
I helped them up and made a joke about flying to close to the sun, which they didn’t appreciate, telling me that I had got my context all wrong. Behind us forty embryos wriggled toward us.
“FUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCCKKKKK”!! We shouted and ran like Scooby Doos through the snow. After a minute the grey cold had the effect of making each embryo burst creating huge purple and brown splodges all over the powdery snow. We stopped.
“Neat” said Pollux.
Don’t say ‘Neat’!
The train reappeared and Jacquard reappeared, as was his right.
He looked older though, paler, wan, old wan. I asked was he okay. He told me he was dying. Wasn’t he already dead, I thought? Castor despite gaying up the place, came over and put his arms around Jacquard’s shoulders just as the man collapsed to the ground.
“We have to get him help.” shouted Castor, rather theatrically.
“Exactly where?’ I thought I thought I thought I thought.
“How should we know? This is your imagination funky munki.”
“Right back on the train then, Trinny and Susannah!” I exclaimed. “We’re going to get ol Jackieboy fixed up right enough.”
We boarded the train, and lay Jacquard on a slab in the carriage, now devoid of weird singing embryos. An antique radio was on a wet shelf. Jacquard told me the sequence of numbers which I had push on a keypad on top. This would get the train going he said. Pollux asked me the sequence as if it was some enlightening thing. I exclaimed, yet again, as is my fucking right,
“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.”
“Not much of an imagination going on there, munki, wha?” shrugged Pollux.
I ignored his sarcastic lapse into Dubalin vernacular and pushed the buttons on the pad. A series of cogs and belts kicked into action, a press opened and a tin station guard rolled out of the other carriage. His tin arm moved a tin whistle up to his tin mouth and blew sharply,
“All aboard, next stop Palace Posy…”
What now? When will this end. What is the meaning of all this? What cryptic message is this all supposed to convey? The whole production feels like a code, but at what point do you stop caring and think this is just another trip. The train moved. Alongside us, a soaking wet and shivering spider ran and threw a line at the train, swung itself up and landed in our carriage.
“Missed me.” he smiled like Bruce Willis, if Bruce Willis was a spider.
“Aw Yeh, oh, eh yeah.” We murmured, collectively realising that we’d forgotten about the cyclosa’s existence almost instantly.
The landscape turned from iced earth to a fuzzy warmth and then a city rose up in the distance. I realised Jacquard could hear my thoughts. He would raise his head and stare at me, sometimes smiling, sometimes quizzically.
“PALACE POSY this stop!” announced the station guard, “Off with you know. Enjoy!”
We alighted from the train as you should in any circumstances. Getting off a train is something completely different and altogether sinister.
We were surrounded by glass buildings which reflected and refracted the blazing sun. All ice had gone and now we were steaming. Each movement would send prisms of colour around our eyes. It was uncomfortable yet soothing.
“Welcome to Uritual my new friends. We will find help for me here.” said a less sick looking Jacquard.
“There is no one here old man. Who will help you?” A tense Pollux said.
“Oh but there are many here.” Old manned Jacquard.
We walked through the city slowly watching for the slightest idea of a creature, a being, an entity which we could engage with. The spider had lost two of its legs to the squirrel, which led to it occasionally running sideways into a building. We laughed, even the old man laughed. Stupid spider.
“This is not funny.” hissed the arachnid.
“You gonna tell the folks back home you were mauled by a squirrel, spider?” Castor laughed. It was the first time we felt relaxed on the whole trip. But, a trip to where?
“Ah yez, this is a good place to die, monsieurs,” said Jacquard, bringing death back into it. Yeah I know, for fuck sake.
We nervously laughed.
“For all of us. Ha ha” he continued and laughed horribly.
“Hardy fucking har.” I retorted in my best Harvey Keitel.
“Ah, we are here.”
Amid all the glass structures stood a violently pink stone structure. A pyramid shape with five cones sticking out of it in non-symmetrical placement. The music flew through the buildings making us move our heads trying to catch it. Sometimes out of the corners of my eyes, I thought I saw children running behind structures. It must be the refracting light I thought. Castor claimed to see shadows moving just out sight. Jacquard screamed in a different language and the door opened about 30 feet above the ground.
“We must enter,” said the old man. “The meaning of your trip will be inside.”
I was glad to get out of the burning sun. All the while I could sense children. More and more of them were just out of sight, but I could not steal a proper glance at any. Castor lifted me and the spider up and flew us into the door. Pollux collected the old man and we met inside at another door with a flourescent blue rod acting as a handle. Odourless smoke billowed out of pots beside us and we all felt light-headed.
“Whatever happens to us here is not permanent.” Jacquard looked sick again.
“Enough of these riddles old man. Tell us why we are here.” demanded the spider.
Jacquard placed his hand on the blue bar. A rumble came from below us. My fur stiffened. The ground beneath seemed to be moving, but we could not tell where. Our sensations were dulled because of the smoke and we may have been going up, down, sideways, who the fuck knew? Staticy voices came from all around us and despite being unable to understand what they were saying, we knew well the fuckers were talking about us. A banging vibrating sound repeated over and over again. The sound of a stifled trumpet trying to find its next note banged the back of my brain like a frisky German surgeon.
“We are moving into infinity. You should prepare.” said Jacquard.
‘Prepare for what?’ was probably going through everyone’s fear-stricken heads. Distant drums, close voices, strange sounds, rhythms, then off-beat chatter, then the sky, the sky was getting further way. We are going down. That’s the direction. We stop at one point at a door. Through we are in a large oriental cafe. The smells of coffee and cakes revive us for a minute. It’s a busy cafe. The sounds of conversations, important and frivolous give us the first sense of belonging this whole trip. Even the spider feels calm and starts cracking jokes. He tells us this isn’t all bad and would like an eclair. The fact that despite the clamour, we couldn’t see anyone doesn’t seem to bother us. There is coffee.
“There’s coffee!!” shouted Castor.
“There’s coffee!!” shouted Pollux.
“ECLAIRS!” laughed the spider. “COFFEE.”
We stuffed our faces for ten minutes, drank hot beverages like we were cops. Jacquard sat on a creaky dark-stained chair and smiled at us like we were his children. He tells us of the city of Uritual, how many centuries ago it was a thriving, happy metropolis. Social ills didn’t exist, everyone shared the wealth, a child was as important as King…and then, inevitably, as was his right and his affectation, he stood bolt upright, looked around wide-eyed and whispered to us,
“And then they drank the coffee.”
The chatter in the room stopped. Shadows filled the walls. Darkness descended. Castor dropped the doughnut he was eating. Pollux was slack-jawed with a croissant hanging out of his mouth.
“The fucking coffee?” I muttered.
He began to laugh hysterically and slapped his thigh hard and pointed at us. Our shoulders de-tensed. We started laughing with him. Then his face changed to stone,
“It’s poisoned.” He announced.”It sends a chemical into your bloodstream that attracts ze little ones. The can smell it. Oh they can smell it. They want it and they will do anything to get it. So ravenous they are that the littul enfants came to Uritual so they got that chemical. They adore it, they need it, they will have it. There is no King here anymore, but I suspect his gnawed bones are here.”
Our shoulders re-tensed. The sun went down.
“But why would you bring us here?” asked a very upset spider.
Jacquard lit a cigarette on a silver holder and took a deep drag.
“Je…I suppose. I. I suppose I always wanted to see the place and it seemed like a good place to die. Companionship matters aussi. The station guard will bury the dead. We will remain here forever.”
The sound of a children’s choir came over a tannoy system we hadn’t seen and I’ll tell you this without hesitation, now I felt scared. The room became dark. We could hear shuffling and then we were jostled and grabbed and moved and I was hit on my littul head and I passed out.
When I awoke, it was dark. I was strapped to a very long curved maple board with my compatriots. Our mouths were gagged with a leather strap which had a special piece which pushed into our mouths resting at the back of our throats. It was activated when you tried to make a noise and I began to gag. Below me was a silver urn. Beside that a bucket with some kind of filtration system. Above my head was a huge spike and beside that a nozzle which smelled of gas. A huge door opened and we were presented with a bright hall. Beautiful ornate windows on all sides, but what made my fur crawl was the rows and rows of children, standing to attention in some kind of military exercise. They were all dressed in orange cloaks, they all had long blonde hair and all had their heads facing down.
Despite the thing in my mouth I could look around and see my friends stricken with terror. Castor and Pollux had no wings anymore, just bloody jagged stumps which moved slightly as if in pain. The spider was missing his remaining legs. he was essentially a head. Only Jacquard looked okay, serene. He had no contraption on his face. Why?
A girl shuffled out of the lineup and walked up to Jacquard speaking in that radio static voice. She seemed to have very few facial characteristics, but when she looked up, she exhibited the most evil eyes I have ever seen. Millennia of distrust, torture, violence and need flowed out of orange irises. She sniffed at Jacquard and put her hand up. In unison the entire congregation lifted their heads and they began to scream in terrible unity. The sight of their awful eyes made me look away. The board began to rumble and the spike was driven into Jacquard’s head, splitting him down the middle like a kebab. His blood flowed into the bucket and was processed, flowing through pipes and ducts into a central reservoir which shimmered out of varnished wood behind the children .
Castor and Pollux screamed and gagged, screamed and gagged. The spider, however made no noise. I couldn’t tell whether it was alive. A very speedy separation of blood from body ended and the bucket moved to the side, being replace by the urn. I started to get it now. The fire that engulfed Jacquard came from the bluest flame. He disintegrated into dust and all that was left were his leather straps.
“Come to dust.” the little one chided in that horrible voice.
I eyed my friends, hoping they would see me wishing them goodbye. But they, obviously were pre-occupied with what was to happen next. Castor went to the sounds of gurgling howls of his brother and claps of thunder in the heavens. Then Pollux. The spider didn’t take any time. I was stuck on this board, alone with these freaks, some of whom where already bathing in that bloody pond, dancing and screaming ungodly sounds. The sniffer child walked up to me, sniffed, then came closer. She sniffed again. Looked confused, then sniffed again. Ah Jesus, what manner of fucking disaster will befall me now.
She stepped back, threw both arms in the air and squealed angrily. The rest of the children turned and looked at me at the same time. Unnerved, I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Was there a special death for me. My straps broke and the device slid out my mouth. I fell to the ground at the feet of the child. She hunkered down and hissed at me, exposing her toothless mouth. Then, she raised her arm, a door behind me opened and I was carried out, past the glass buildings and chucked on to the icy ground at the edge of the city. I looked up and they had vanished, but I could here there screams.
That is the way to death. The old man had said as much. I started walking slowly back to where I started. At one point, the train appeared along side me. The tin station agent screamed,
I just continued past. Why was I not killed? This question bugged me for so long, until I realised with a probably too enthusiastic shout, considering what happened.
“They all had the fucking coffee, but I had fucking tea!”
As I walked on into the distance where the blue sky met the white earth punctuated by that good ol blinding sun, I felt the gloom, the knowledge that this trip would end in death. The futility of existence, even in the knowledge that a higher power may or may not exist, is a pretty grounding experience. The slow trudge toward it can only be rewarded with the finishing of your part in it all. I must go on, but the destination is clear. The bits in between are just manic bus stops filled with incident and distraction. The cruel end my new allies suffered at the hands of those horrorshow freaks were met with terror, acceptance and plain indifference.
As I pass the still wriggling embryos, I hear a change in the sound of the air and a great swan sweeps down, grabs me with its beak and flings me on its back. It starts to climb ahead toward the sun. The beautiful sun. The steady wind is met with the vibrations and echoing sounds of a synthesiser. I hug the swan, and it looks at me. It seems to smile. Wordlessly we continue towards the sun. I think about our group. Five distinct individuals. Four of us dead. Five merry travellers, four dead. Four out of five. So to the final strains of Semena Mertvykh, I decide to give the album four out of five. Four out of five. Four out of five. They would have liked that. They would.
Anyways, here’s a bonus if you got this far…
If you didn’t get this far, then FUCK YOU!