Top positive review
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A beautiful piece of work
on 5 October 2006
Boards of Canada are one of those very rare acts that come along once in a while with a sound so polarised, so outside everything else, that they've practically invented a new genre of their own. Think of the influence that the likes of Beefheart, My Bloody Valentine, Brian Eno, The Velvet Underground or Aphex Twin have had on their respective genres, and you start to get an idea of the impact this Scottish duo have had on the electronica scene over the past ten years.
'The Campfire Headphase' surprised fans with the sudden and unexpected use of guitar sounds on this, their third 'proper' album. BOC are well-known for their unmistakable analogue drones and science-programme jingles, which are present here in the gorgeously wonky tracks like '84 Pontiac Dream' and 'Oscar See Through Red Eye', but now the sounds are augmented by squelchy percussion and what sounds like a broken electric guitar with half of its strings missing. In fact the stand-out tracks for this reviewer are two of the most heavily guitar-oriented; The wonderfully lysergic 'Satellite Anthem Icarus' and the epic sci-fi western (as the band put it) 'Dayvan Cowboy', with its shuddering tremolo guitar and thunderous cymbal crashing climax.
The result is a strange new angle on the 'BOC' sound, part introspective synth ambience, and part seventies library music band in a jam session. In fact, the retro element is a key to the focus of this album's intent. Occasionally a poorly-informed reviewer, usually new to Boards of Canada, attempts to criticise their music with remarks about their 'cheesy 70s synth sounds', when in fact this is an unwitting compliment to BOC. As if the band's name, (which derives from the 1970s TV documentaries of the National Film Board of Canada), isn't a big enough clue.
The Campfire Headphase is a beautiful, strange and psychedelic reminder of the emotional potential of instrumental electronica. Recommended.