Campfire’s Edge – The Last Lighthouse (2017, Self-Released)

Years ago, I reviewed Robert Rich’s “Somnium.” At the time, it was the longest album in history, though Rich beat his own record with the 8-hour long follow-up, “Perpetual.” While known for his ambient soundscapes and unorthodox sound design, Rich is also a highly sought-after mastering engineer. One look at his resume reveals how diverse his clients are. Where else will you see Terra Ambient, Jeff Greinke, Markus Reuter, and Mariah Carey on the same list? Rich’s latest mastering credit can be found on a little-known project called Campfire’s Edge.

New York-based artist Nathan M. Yeager is the man behind the project. While Yeager became interested in music recording as a teenager, he has built an impressive portfolio after studying at the New School in New York. He recorded and toured with post rock band Daybed, which shared the stage with Pan American and Low. He also composed music for films like “BlackMale,” and improvised free jazz with Rashid Bakr and Daniel Carter. However, Yeager’s passion is creating cinematic music with whatever tools are in his arsenal. Nowhere is that more evident than on his debut EP, “The Last Lighthouse.”

“The Last Lighthouse” begins with “It’s Been a Hell of a Year (Bliss Out),” the longest piece at nearly 10-minutes. It isn’t kidding being subtitled “Bliss Out,” as the piece exudes a powerful, otherworldly cinematic bliss. Looped guitar swells drone under shimmering layers of piano and reversed guitar licks that evolve over the entire 10 minutes. While it may not sound exciting, the atmosphere combines medieval Celtic drones, modern classical minimalism, and 1980s dream pop. But it sounds intensely gorgeous and feels warm as a blanket. It’s the kind of thing you’ll want to wrap up in.

“Like Amber” is a short piece juxtaposing ambient textures with glitchy drum rhythms. The beats may shock listeners out of the previous track’s trance, but the mood is still pastoral. “March of the Tortoise” continues the erratic drum work with sparkling panned keys. At times, the synths channel the beautiful atmospheres on Kraftwerk’s “Tour de France Soundtracks” and “Expo 2000.” While static and ending suddenly, the piece feels perfect as background ambiance for a short film. Likewise, “Sonoluminence” feels like a film theme, but it verges into John Carpenter/Stranger Things territory. An electric guitar soars over lurking beats, bass drones, and repeating melodies that channel the score to “Halloween.”

“Last Night in Pine Bush, NY” is a minimalist production consisting of two synths and an electric guitar. Yet the “less is more” approach works perfectly, as Yeager forms a composition drenched in the best childhood nostalgia possible. Lastly, the EP ends with the tear-jerking “Theme from ‘The Last Lighthouse.'” An emotive analog synth melody plays over bells and pads, while unintelligible voices bathed in radio static cry out. By the end, the track drones out with electronic drums and fluttering synth effects. It’s here, I realize, that “Last Night in Pine Bush, NY” was merely preparation for what was to come. Everything about the finale oozes 1980s TV themes and the romanticism of Hallmark films. Maybe that wasn’t Yeager’s intention, but either way, the track is one of the best endings to an EP I’ve heard.

It’s remarkable that Campfire’s Edge’s “The Last Lighthouse,” as cinematic and disparate as it is, holds together as a cohesive piece. It opens with complex atmospheres through glitchy rhythms and treatments on recognizable sounds. But as the EP progresses, the songs become increasingly minimal and emotional. The slow changes and the variety of tones allow Yeager to sculpt a sonic sojourn. This is where the EP shines, as every track is meant to be seen as part of a larger whole. It’s surprising that this is merely the project’s debut, for it will be exciting to see where it goes next. No wonder Robert Rich was happy to add on his credit: “The Last Lighthouse” is an odyssey to experience. Grab a cup of tea, hit play on the stereo, and bliss out.

Title: The Last Lighthouse

Artist: Campfire’s Edge

Genre: Ambient soundscapes/synthwave/experimental glitch “IDM”

Available to buy as limited edition CD or digital download at https://campfiresedge.bandcamp.com/album/the-last-lighthouse!

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