Boards of Canada's unstable tones, turquoise keyboards and digitally mildewed
synthesizers have always sought a reunion with the florid perception of
childhood. Behind bloated breakbeats, exotic percussion and plumes of scudding
synth washes, distant melodies and multicolored harmonies encouraged a closer
engagement, asked one to lean over the edge, to let oneself fall into their wrinkled,
twisted textures and become engulfed in the inane babble of the children who
beckoned from below.
On The Campfire Headphase, the Scottish pair's first full-length in three
years, the directives remain much the same, but their pieces are now peopled
by more organic instruments. Compositions such as "Satellite Anthem Icarus," "Sherbet
Head" and "Hey Saturday Sun" are flecked by the rippling chords of a guitar,
but one that is by no means conventionally displayed. Much as they approach their
other sound sources, Mike Sandison and Marcus Eoin sample the guitar, let it
soak in reverb, wring it through multiple delay pedals, and finally hang it out
on a line where it is slashed and pulled every which way by keyboard swirls and
tropical bleeps. On "Chromakey Dreamcoat," this
experiment works especially well, as splintered guitar harmonics and bleary synthesizer
splutter gingerly wheedle listeners into raising their heads to the gyrating
fury of rapidly uncontrollable twirling horizons. The spell is broken, however,
pieces like "Tears From the Compound" and "Oscar See Through Red Eye," which
get lost in the marshes of their own hypnotic rhythms, sugar-sweet synths and
lo-fi, breathy drones.
The notion of descent takes on new meanings as the bulbous beats that acted as pillars for the sprightly moods of earlier pieces begin to crumble, and works such as "Constants Are Changing" are essentially acts of implosion where fluttering flutes, knotty constellations of electronics and icy Scandinavian tinkling bells break down into a dreary, chalky powder. On the whole, then, The Campfire Headphase presents an altogether more subdued, gentle, worryingly melancholy tale of dreams that are perhaps becoming nightmares visions that wake you up at night, and keep you forging ahead come day.