-->
Music

Boards of Canada: The Campfire Headphase

Dan Nishimoto

Boards of Canada gathers listeners around for a powwow at The Campfire Headphase.


Boards of Canada

The Campfire Headphase

Label: Warp
US Release Date: 2005-10-18
UK Release Date: 2005-10-17
iTunes affiliate
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

How do today's consumers grasp art? Considering that context frames content, how many of us pause to pop the periscope up to poke around? Open a paper/page and the contrary appears to be the case: critics concoct obtuse categories (Alternative!) to contain it and consumers resort to vague terms (Interesting!) to explain it. Convenience reduces process to a product, tagged, that's it.

The shame of all this passive aggressive shame is that creators do not necessarily have a better sense of what it's all about. While an artist can speak on original intent, he or she is not expected to psychoanalyze our responses; ?uestlove writes meaty liners, but I certainly don't expect him to draw out every subtlety of The Tipping Point for me. In fact, one might venture to say that some artists appreciate multiple interpretations (Gasp!) of their work. And therein lies the particular fun of art: oh, the many roads to be traveled...

The joy then of Boards of Canada's The Campfire Headphase is that it creates a welcome space for both artist and audience. While the duo's first two records often buried themselves in an insular crypt -- the underwater boom bap of Music Has the Right to Children and the calculated nod factor of Geogaddi got mostly the Internet boys goin' crazy -- its third proper LP takes the audience's lead, as well as guiding its audience with a clearer group voice; melodic guitars and clear hooks court the listener, while complex effects drape the songs in the duo's characteristically oblique manner. Patiently, the album unfolds as a listener's experience. Like the title suggests, The Campfire Headphase is part communal experience -- gather around the album and share -- part personal odyssey -- my headphones rock better than yours, damn right...

The Campfire Headphase's initial pull is through familiar motifs and sensations. Like a transistor radio finding the right tuning, "Into the Rainbow Vein" opens the record with an admitted confusion, a subtle hint that what follows is subject to your memories and ideas. Little surprise then that "Chromakey Dreamcoat" is a backward glance at a picture [of who?], a pastime guitar replayed to present-day breaks. Similarly, "Satellite Anthem Icarus" triggers the synapses with sounds of slow-rolling waves and acoustic spirals undulating vertically to the rhythm of the tide. In spite of washing each track with discombobulating tunnels of echo and comatose tambourines, Boards of Canada provide enough aural cues to settle the listener in their preferred mood and atmosphere.

With gradual degrees, The Campfire Headphase's sonic textures become apparent. "Peacock Tail" opens in a velvet clef, dripping layers of chocolate fondue upon the ears. The bass alone is so rich and decadent that all other instruments merely garnish it: Brasilian marches, voices captured from a plasma screen, vibes for melody, and choked drum hits play musical merry-go-round to keep attention in constant motion. Similarly, "84 Pontiac Dream" lumbers awkwardly as caramel guitar lines glop and clomp their way through a mushy memory, a hash-hazed rehash. As if to fatten a sweet melody, Boards of Canada increasingly draws attention to deliberate aural qualities of each track, as if to leave a clear signature.

Not to say that The Campfire Headphase is mere sonic decadence, literal ear candy, because careful arrangement gives roughly half of the compositions a sense of coherence and strength. "Dayvan Cowboy" carefully organizes its sound palette to maximize dramatic potential. A subdued opening of fuzzed guitars in round tandem fall like pixel acid raindrops, while tambourine accents splash through the puddles. The calm is broken to the sound of a descending plane, a larger than life... guitar strum. It is a play between the unexpected and de rigeur. Epic crash cymbals, rides riding into infinity while a drum machine stuffed with pink insulation nods softly. "Farewell Fire" strips much of the trimming in favor of guitars -- albeit 1,000 tremelos replacing pipe organs in their dance in the church cupola's apex. As this Sin City soundtrack and St. Elmo's Fire drayma demonstrate, Boards of Canada has graduated from cheap boom baps toasting arrangements to full blown fiyah productions.

Admittedly, The Campfire Headphase becomes excessive at points. The gut screw of "Slow This Bird Down" is flan fudge, just too much, sedating the listener's willpower toward the end of the record. In addition to a host of brief segues that flaunt whiffs of ideas before folding itself into the following track, The Campfire Headphase can become an exercise in endurance. Nevertheless, the album is admirable for its sensitivity toward the listening experience, and its affect beyond the studio. So, let the geeks clamor over the next LP's direction; there're plenty of stories to tell here.

8
Music

The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less
TV

'Curb Your Enthusiasm' S9 Couldn't Find Its Rhythm

Larry David and J.B. Smoove in Curb Your Enthusiasm S9 (HBO)

Curb Your Enthusiasm's well-established characters are reacting to their former selves, rather than inhabiting or reinventing themselves. Thus, it loses the rhythms and inflections that once made the show so consistently, diabolically funny.

In an era of reboots and revivals, we've invented a new form of entertainment: speculation. It sometimes seems as if we enjoy begging for television shows to return more than watching them when they're on the air. And why wouldn't we? We can't be disappointed by our own imaginations. Only the realities of art and commerce get in the way.

Keep reading... Show less
6

Wars of attrition are a matter of stamina, of who has the most tools with which to keep fighting. A surprising common tool in this collection? Humor.

The name of the game is "normal or abnormal". Here's how you play: When some exceedingly shocking political news pops up on your radar, turn to the person next to you, read them the headline and ask, "is this normal or abnormal?" If you want to up the stakes, drink a shot every time the answer is abnormal. If that's too many shots, alter the rules so that you drink only when things are normal—which is basically never, these days. Hilarious, right?

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image