Ghosts in the Machine
Non-prog-rockers can’t hack storytelling for more than a few songs, let alone consecutive albums. It’s a task better suited for masters of the written word, right? Well, make way for Boards of Canada and their new LP The Campfire Headphase. In pushing the right electronic buttons they push the right emotional ones as well, continuing to produce some of the world’s most intelligent IDM.Boards of Canada’s organic beats, disembodied vocal samples, and analog synths (resembling brittle tape-dubs of warped vinyl) beg to be heard, seen, even touched. Scotland’s Sandison brothers transform ambience into environments that fire imaginations, like daydreams about what’s going on in a timeworn photo or beneath a sun-dappled stream.
The Campfire Headphase incorporates previously unused knowledge of acoustic and electric instruments on midtempo material like “Hey Saturday Sun.” There’s a measure of expertly polished production amid the clatter of “Dayvan Cowboy.” Meanwhile, Boards of Canada’s hallmark restraint continues to dominate small transitional gems and work like the distantly quiet “Farewell Fire.”
Following 1998’s debut Music Has the Right to Children — a classic, innocent timewarp for kids of the 1970s — and the darker, more adult Geogaddi, The Campfire Headphase uses sound to address and exemplify maturity, the end of a life cycle, the potential for Buddhist-like rebirth. At the close of an unexpected trilogy that is the U.K.’s best story arc since Harry Potter, you want to believe this music is what the ghosts of our loved ones hear as they approach Earth to try to contact us, to let us know everything will be alright.