Campfire Songs – S/T

The term “experimental music” gets tossed around so often, and so loosely, that it’s sometimes forgotten that the term doesn’t have to refer to atonal art music. Experimental music is, as the name implies, the result of doing something differently. A composer might ask “what happens if I abandon control of the score and let the performer choose the order in which the piece is played;” a musician might ask “what happens if I wind objects between the strings of my guitar?” Experimental music is the result of an experiment – so when I say that the new effort from Campfire Songs is experimental, don’t let it scare you into thinking you’ll be hearing 45 minutes of impenetrable noise. The results here are beautiful.
What Campfire Songs do is play acoustic guitars and sing. They recorded the songs on a screened-in porch during a rainstorm, with three minidisc players set up in strategic locations; the album emphasizes natural sounds as much as it does the performers, with the rain and ambient sounds sometimes turned up in the mix. The songs sound at least partially improvised, but it’s difficult to tell, and the band offers little information about themselves or the songs. The lyrics are almost impossible to discern, but they generally sound melancholy and isolated. As the album moves along, the songs seem to become more formed, almost as if they are growing out of something organic.
Generally, however, the songs are a wash of sound; there aren’t any tunes on here that you’ll be humming, and Campfire Songs is more of an ambient experience than anything else. It’s like stumbling on some long forgotten form of folk music, which was recorded almost accidentally. It’s a unique document, one which should be listened to in the still of night, with no distractions. Spend some time with this one, it’s worth the effort.