Published Jan 01, 2006There's something about Scottish duo Boards of Canada's dreamy, nostalgic electronic meditations that plants you into an idyllic setting of your imagination, perhaps located within your own distant memories. Their third and latest transportation device, The Campfire Headphase, is no exception.
"I sometimes hear what we do as being a kind of time-travelling soundtrack to open spaces, something that works really well with outdoor experiences, and it grabs you out of today and throws you back or forward in time. It's total escapism," says Mike Sandison. "We're always getting letters from people saying things like, I was driving through the Rockies listening to your album and it just felt like I was a kid again back in winter 1985 '"
Such reoccurring out-of-body experiences could have to do with the brothers Sandison (Marcus uses Eoin, his middle name, as a surname) being fascinated with the great outdoors, which is where they spend most of their time when they're not making music.
In fact, Mike and Marcus are known to throw a righteous outdoor party when the mood strikes. These parties have been dubbed Redmoon nights after an early one featured a blood-red full moon backdrop from the receptive cosmos.
"They're like a hybrid of an outdoor bonfire party and a very small gig, because we can do any old thing we want, there's no pressure to fit a typical format, it's just for fun," says Marcus Eoin. "Some of our friends DJ and we put together small sets of weirdness, usually tapes with unreleased tracks, chopped-up dialogue, movie music and other stuff. We use multiple speaker set-ups that play various things from separate locations, which means it's different every time."
As close to a pop album as Boards of Canada have come, The Campfire Headphase lays aside the musical and numerical theories they played with on their last album, 2002's subliminal and abstract Geogaddi, in favour of further refining the tried and true sound of their legendary 1998 debut, Music Has the Right to Children.
"It's like the closing of a trilogy for us; there's a bit of Music Has the Right to Children in the new record, because this one has that same fresh out-in-the-open sound, which was exactly what we wanted after the darker abstract tunes on Geogaddi," says Mike. "It's a record for listening to rather than dissecting; it's really a collection of acid-pop tunes. We really intend this one to just be a tuneful record to put on loud and kick back."
Besides an increased attention to minute details, Headphase notably exhibits Boards of Canada's most prominent use of non-electronic instrumentation to date. "We've always recorded with acoustic instruments, as far back as the early '80s we were both playing in experimental bands using various instruments," says Marcus Eoin. "On the last couple of BoC records there are some guitars, but they're so heavily processed and sampled to the point where everything sounds like a synth. The reason it's more up-front this time is because instead of writing tracks on the sequencer or sampler like previous records, we came up with most of the track ideas by jamming melodies acoustically to tape. We spent months in 2004 putting together demos, experimenting with guitars, flutes, drums, obscure string instruments, anything that was laying around the studio."
Mike Sandison has a description that best encapsulates the feel of this album: "I see The Campfire Headphase as a kind of desert movie electronic jam session, with some grand, sun-baked melodies."