Boards of Canada, 'The Campfire Headphase' (Warp)

The Campfire Headphase
Critical Mass
Label: Warp

by Julia Simon

As Boards of Canada, Marcus Eoin and Mike Sandison take strangely hypnotic wanderings through a monochromatic, ethereal haze. Listening to the Scottish duo's third full-length, The Campfire Headphase, is like dreaming in fuzzy, sepia-tinted tones through blinked-back tears. While their humid wasteland of sonic blips and processed textures verges on the monotonous, there is enough illuminating grandeur that makes their album lifting, and even cathartic.

With track titles like "'84 Pontiac Dream" and "Constants Are Changing" it might seem like the Scottish duo don't pen the smartest of songs, but their syrupy techno-rock hybrid adeptly incorporates acoustic, electric, and electronic instruments with ambient synergy. There are, however, missteps: "Dayvan Cowboy" begins promisingly, but as BoC peel back the echoing overcast to reveal melancholy layers of digitalia, the track morphs into Moby-inspired filler. When the duo doesn't unduly flirt with dance excessiveness, though, their electronic stammerings bubble benignly just beneath the surface. These synthetic throbs aren't waiting to explode or even unfold -- they're just waiting. Standout cuts "Oscar See Through Red Eye" and "Slow This Bird Down" make these manufactured pulses more oblique and obtrusive, pitter-pattering them out like percussively lapping waves or a gentle heartbeat that gives life to the abysmal calm.

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