Boards of Canada – The Campfire Headphase

Boards of Canada - The Campfire Headphase (2005)

Boards of Canada - The Campfire Headphase (2005)

Ambient music never felt so good.  What Boards of Canada did here is basically craft a set of tunes with an impressive and unobtrusive collection of nature sounds, and even though this description sounds like this would make for a perfect National Geographic documentary soundtrack, it is actually a lot more than that.

This is just not some random songs with a soundtrack of birds singing on top of it, it is an organic experience, a vivid reminiscence of a relaxing day out with nature.  What is even more impressive is that this manages to feel fresh all the way through, and then almost until the end, a dark and drone atmosphere covers it all, almost like staying out late, losing the notion of time and being caught by the night as it reclaims its territory when the day fades out.

Previous experiences with Boards of Canada records taught me what to expect from them, and this almost caught me off guard.  Right at the beginning Chromakey Dreamcoat surprises us with something completely new for a Boards of Canada record: guitars.  Fear not, though, because this is not the beginning of the transition for a more mainstream sound, but a welcome addition that serves to prove that the duo is not afraid to experiment with this kind of elements.

Another surprising variant from previous records is that I found some more structure, musically speaking, than say, Geogaddi or even Boc Maxima.  There’s still a steep curve of learning and adaptation here, but it does not feel that random.  It feels like songs are fitted together nicely, without abrupt switching between them, which makes for a smoother experience.

I already mentioned Chromakey Dreamcoat, which serves very well its purpose of introducing the pace and musical direction, followed by the superb Satellite Anthem Icarus.  Other songs you should pay attention to:  Dayvan Cowboy (featured also in the 2006’s Trans Canada Highway EP, hopefully I’ll review it some time in the future), Oscar See Through Red Eye, Hey Saturday Sun, Tears From the Compound Eye, just to name a few.  Give it some time and you will discover the ones you feel more comfortable with.

Boards of Canada, for those not familiar with their long and under the radar history, has never been this accessible before, and this is a record I’ve enjoyed a lot for the past couple of years.  Their records have always been surrounded by this underground halo, nearly unknown outside their loyal fan base, and maybe we can’t go as far as saying that this is a step in the opposite direction, but maybe just a hint that upcoming material will be just as good as this, or we can only hope, even better.


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