The Campfire Headphase (Warp)

Boards of Canada are two Scottish crusties who make the most beautifully melancholic, psychedelic, fall-colored downtempo ever. Their M.O. isn't all that different from the RZA's track work for the best of the Wu-Tang Clan -- flip a dope beat and throw some dusted samples at it. The difference is that where RZA makes ol' dirty tracks, Boards of Canada write songs that are more appropriate for rocking newborns to sleep. But where 1998's Music Has the Right to Children was more languid than luminous, and 2002's Geodaddi was more cynical than sinister, The Campfire Headphase's chief asset is its sincerity. The warbly samples are still there, mostly as segues -- a reminder that the best music evokes memories. Here, songs are memories. Precious guitars wind and slope between acid-washed strings that sound like My Bloody Valentine and Portishead collaborating on long-overdue follow-ups, as on the perfectly titled "Hey Saturday Sun." What makes The Campfire Headphase so monumental in its loping, wistful way is how much it captures the zeitgeist that better-known artists -- Moby and Thievery Corporation for one and two -- have attempted to tap into this year with mixed results. In their own quiet, tumbling way, Boards of Canada have become equal parts Aphex Twin and Sigur Rs, capturing an awestruck beauty that inspires more than demands its space in the "Autumn" folder on your iPod.
Hobey Echlin

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