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Boards of Canada The Campfire Headphase

Boards of Canada‘s 1998 classic, Music Has the Right to Children, fostered a whole sub-genre of "pastoral IDM" and drove countless bedroom musicians to revisit youths spent indulging in hip-hop and watching Canadian science documentaries. The album was a heady introduction to BoC‘s daydreams-tinged with old nightmares, hallucinations of splendors both lived and pretended, shadows of David Koresh and fallen scientists gazing at the stars from the stumps of clear-cut forests and the rooftops of cities sunken into seas. So groundbreaking was Music... that BoC has been both forgiven and criticized for barely changing their trademark sound for a decade. With their latest album, The Campfire Headphase, the duo of Marcus Eoin and Michael Sandison is caught at a crucial point: are they elders marking a triumphant return or has-beens about to be eclipsed by their students? Campfire‘s cover-a faceless kid in a melted Polaroid-and its awkward title revisit Music... As on that classic, a few of these songs chase moments of awe or curiosity that disappear before they can be truly grasped. The utterly mesmerizing "A Moment of Clarity" floats the mind into air for less than a minute, while "Ataronchronon"‘s scraping timbres are akin to having blinding sunlight shut off the world around you. Campfire often suffers from tepidness-little haunts the imagination and no tension keeps things together. But even with the drawbacks, BoC is still moving forward. The most striking change is their use of fireside, acoustic guitar riffs that add spaciousness to their songs. "Chromakey Dreamcoat" loops a dirge that blows into the wind, leaving ghostly traces. The guitarwork adds to the album‘s listlessness, sometimes sleepwalking its way to heaven as on the brilliant "Tears From the Compound Eye." But on numbers like "Hey Saturday Sun" and "Dayvan Cowboy," it seems as though BoC is following paths cleared by those they inspired: Bibio‘s disintegrating ballads from the English hinterlands, Four Tets porch-sitting hip-hop. "Oscar See Through Red Eye" and "Slow This Bird Down" are lukewarm trip-hop numbers, while "84 Pontiac Dream" is hypnotic but wearisome, repeating the same beats and somber hits of melody. Elsewhere on Campfire, Eoin and Sandison can be found serving up play-by-the-numbers, shoegazing indie pop. Campfires finale, "Farewell Fire," returns to the same crossroads BoC visited on 2002‘s Geogaddi. That record had two endings, one hopeful and the other empty. "From One Source All Things Depend" (from the Japanese edition) was a sound collage of kids talking about God‘s nature, while "Magic Window" (from the non-Japanese version) contained nothing but silence.

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