Boards of Canada

What do you do when everyone's counting on you to rouse intelligent dance music (IDM) out of its years-long slumber? If you're the beloved Scottish duo Boards of Canada, you sit cross-legged, strumming your guitar or tapping on a dusty drum machine. Although they've never been as Exacto-happy as their beat-slicing peers, Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin sound particularly relaxed on their third album, The Campfire Headphase, confident that their bold melodies and hip-hop-basic beats can do the driving. And, really, it's hard to resist being wooed by Headphase's simplicity: The beat-dragging of "Hey Saturday Sun," the sand-blasting tape hiss of "Sherbet Head," and the swirling synths of "'84 Pontiac Dream" all hypnotize. But it's even harder to ignore what's just below the surface: The album sports not so much a found-sound aesthetic but a find-it-yourself ethos. BoC quietly sounds alarms, voices, doomed melodies, and rhythms at Headphase's core, merely conflating manipulation with fascination.

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Rich Juzwiak