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The Campfire Headphase

Boards of Canada

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Album Review

Just their third missive in the past seven years, The Campfire Headphase displays Boards of Canada changing few of their methods but more of their sounds. The key difference between this record and its predecessors is the advent of unprocessed, recognizable guitars (a small heresy to portions of their fanbase). Although it smacks of a gimmick, and does occasionally remove the mysticism from their productions, it marks a good addition to their palette. Still in effect — and still never equaled anywhere else — is the pair's ability to make electronic music that not only evokes a much earlier period in music, but sounds as though it was last issued decades in the past as well. Intentionally aged and mistreated, the productions evoke the image of a reel-to-reel machine's 1/4" magnetic tape steadily disintegrating as it plays for the last time. The long gestation period of this material is also a hallmark of Boards of Canada, and it shows in the attention to detail. No production escapes their Hexagon Sun studio without being slaved over, and consequently The Campfire Headphase is one of the best-produced records of the year. One surprise is that, finally, a BoC track evokes another artist rather than standing alone: "Satellite Anthem Icarus," the third track, sounds like it could've emerged from the mixing desk of Nigel Godrich as he worked on Beck's Sea Change; in fact, many listeners' imaginations will be able to insert a world-weary vocal into the song and thus make the resemblance perfect. (Of course, Godrich has likely learned much from previous Boards of Canada work.) Also, while the duo have improved slightly as producers in seven years, they haven't grown as melody makers. The Campfire Headphase lacks the transcendent grace that made Music Has the Right to Children and even Geogaddi classics in their field. Working the same territory over and over again may have improved their touch, but it has assuredly stifled their innovative powers.

Biography

Formed: 1996 in Scotland

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Boards of Canada are the duo of Michael Sandison (born June 1, 1970) and Marcus Eoin (born July 21, 1971). Based on the northern coast of Scotland, the group got its start on acclaimed experimental electronica label Skam in 1996 after recording an obscene number of tracks and pressing the best of them up as a miniscule-run 12", Twoism, an eight-track promo EP the group sent to labels in lieu of a demonstration tape. The pair's first official release appeared on Skam toward the middle of 1996, and...
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The Campfire Headphase, Boards of Canada
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