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Camera Obscura

Look To The East, Look To The West

    Look to the East, Look to the West, the new album by Camera Obscura, is a revelation. The Tracyanne Campbell-led outfit, reuniting with producer Jari Haapalainen (Let’s Get Out of This Country, My Maudlin Career), have crafted an album that simultaneously recalls why longtime fans have ferociously loved them for decades while also being their most sophisticated effort to date.

    It is also the most hard-fought album of Camera Obscura’s career. Following the 2015 passing of founding keyboardist and friend Carey Lander (to whom the penultimate track “Sugar Almond” is addressed), the band went into an extended hiatus. They remained in contact, but their status was uncertain until they announced their return, having been invited to perform as part of Belle & Sebastian’s 2019 Boaty Weekender cruise festival, along with a pair of sold-out warm-up shows in Glasgow. Donna Maciocia (keys and vocals) joined founding members Kenny McKeeve (guitar and vocals), Gavin Dunbar (bass), and Lee Thomson (drums and percussion) for those shows and has since become a regular songwriting partner of Campbell’s.

    Recorded in the same room where Queen wrote “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Look to the East, Look to the West feels big, a widescreen reframing of Camera Obscura’s sound that, paradoxically, saw the band go back to basics there are no string or brass arrangements, with more emphasis placed on piano, synthesizers, Hammond organ, and drum machines, and, perhaps most strikingly, the group have dropped the veil of reverb that characterized their previous albums. The tinges of country and soul that give Camera Obscura’s baroque take on pop music its bittersweet edge have never been more apparent guitars shimmer into the distance, keys haunt, and Campbell’s voice searches for the heart, reflecting on love, loss, and the passage of time.

    Lead single “Big Love” relishes in the space between country rock and prog, a pining break-up anthem featuring the soaring pedal steel of Tim Davidson. It’s a Nashville Sound heartbreaker, tackling the complexity of wanting to rekindle a bad relationship with Campbell’s uncanny ability to render the past: “It was a big love, she said / That’s why it took ten years to get her out of her head,” she begins.

    “We’re Going to Make It in a Man’s World” was co-written with Maciocia for filmmaker Margaret Salmon’s 2021 film Icarus (After Amelia). (Salmon, in turn, shot Look to the East, Look to the West’s cover photography featuring Fiona Morrison, who was on the cover of Camera Obscura’s debut, Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi.). Ironic and sincere, the two navigate the reality of being women in the music industry, somehow floating over Davidson’s pedal steel and Maciocia’s keys. “The Light Nights” is a swooning song propelled by a western shuffle and killer guitar, striking a balance between a particularly good honky-tonk joint’s jukebox and a lost gem of California pop music waiting to be discovered in a 7” bin.

    Look to the East, Look to the West is the sound of a band that has grown more confident in its sound and purpose than ever. It is Camera Obscura at their best and most evocative, an album that completely rearranges the listener’s emotional core, leaving them sad and exhilarated at the same time. Camera Obscura’s catalog is replete with songs people point to as life-changing, songs that will stick with them all their lives. Look to the East, Look to the West has 11 of them; take your pick. 

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Barry says: Camera Obscura return! After the sad passing of Carey Lander, it's hard to imagine how the band could continue but 'Look To The East...' takes all of the latent melodicism and swooning choruses and strips them back to a fairly minimalist backbone. There are moments of the cinematic intensity and wistful grandiosity of their previous work but it's a much more emotionally wrought, fickle affair, and all the more beautiful for it.

    TRACK LISTING

    1. Liberty Print
    2. We’re Going To Make It In A Man’s World
    3. Big Love
    4. Only A Dream
    5. The Light Nights
    6. Sleepwalking
    7. Baby Huey (Hard Times)
    8. Denon
    9. Pop Goes Pop
    10. Sugar Almond
    11. Look To The East, Look To The West.

    The Cinematic Orchestra

    Man With A Movie Camera - 20th Anniversary Edition

      Celebrating 20 years since the release of their incredible soundtrack to the experimental Soviet documentary film, ‘Man With A Movie Camera’, The Cinematic Orchestra reissue the album for the first time on 140g colour vinyl, in ashen and pewter grey.

      When ‘Man With A Movie Camera’ was eventually recorded and released in 2003 to much acclaim, The Guardian said, “You can perform an autopsy on the jazz instruments, DJ Shadow-like grooves and repeating chord sequences, yet come away scratching your head as to how, in such simple combinations, they make such heartfelt music.”

      For fans of Floating Points, Mica Levi, Miles Davis, Vangelis, Jóhann Jóhannsson, BADBADNOTGOOD.

      TRACK LISTING

      A1. All That You Give (feat. Fontella Bass)
      A2. Burn Out
      B1. Evolution (feat. Fontella Bass)
      B2. Man With The Movie Camera
      C1. All Things To All Men (feat. Roots Manuva)
      C2. Flite
      D2. Everyday
      E1. Oregon
      E2. Horizon (feat. Niara Scarlett)
      F1. Semblance
      F2. Flite (Original Version)

      Camera Obscura

      Let's Get Out Of This Country - 2023 Reissue

        "Let's Get Out Of This Country" is the album of maturity, the album of a group that has a solid international position and a third album that will immortalize them. It was recorded in Sweden and produced by Jari Haapalainen (Ed Harcourt, The Concretes), and with it, Tracyanne Campbell and company made the definitive leap with their arrangements, energy, harmonies and composition. Some of the musicians that recorded the strings had recently toured with Brian Wilson and Arthur Lee & Love. The album's collaborators incl- ude Victoria Bergsman from The Concretes, Britta Persson and members of Swedish groups like The Tourettes, Laakso and Speedmarket Avenue. And we get "Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken", "Tears For Affairs", "Razzle Dazzle Rose" and "Let's Get Out Of This Country" to confirm this. And of course, they toured the entire world, were heard on "Grey's Anatomy", and then signed to 4AD.

        TRACK LISTING

        01 Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken
        02 Tears For Affairs
        03 Come Back Margaret
        04 Dory Previn
        05 The False Contender
        06 Let’s Get Out Of This Country
        07 Country Mile
        08 If Looks Could Kill
        09 I Need All The Friends I Can Get
        10 Razzle Dazzle Rose

        Camera Obscura

        Underachievers Please Try Harder - 2023 Reissue

          "Underachievers Please Try Harder" is the album on which Stuart Murdoch continued showing his support for the band with the cover photo; the album produced by Geoff Allan (Mogwai, Teenage Fanclub, The Delgados, Arab Strap And Belle & Sebastian); the album that quickly surpassed 100,000 copies sold, a number that causes a bit of vertigo nowadays; the album that put them at the top of indie lists in the United States, and that was included on an episode of our beloved "Gilmore Girls".

          TRACK LISTING

          01 Suspended From Class
          02 Keep It Clean
          03 A Sisters Social Agony
          04 Teenager
          05 Before You Cry
          06 Your Picture
          07 Number One Son
          08 Let Me Go Home
          09 Books Written For Girls
          10 Knee Deep At The National Pop League
          11 Lunar Sea

          Camera

          Prosthuman

            With the band’s tenth anniversary in their viewfinder, CAMERA release “Prosthuman”, their fifth studio album. As befits an age in which realities can change in the blink of an eye, from one day to the next, the Berlin band never tire of changing themselves, their music or personnel.

            As Karlheinz Stockhausen noted: “New methods change the experience. New experiences change man.”

            Taking this as their lead, Michael Drummer (the drummer) and CAMERA surprise us once more on “Prosthuman” as they reinvent and reformulate their sound without sacrificing the project’s identity which has matured over the past decade. Less surprising is the fact that some record stores give CAMERA their own section, alongside Krautrock pioneers like NEU!, Can and La Düsseldorf. “Emotional Detox”, the predecessor to this album, was distinguished by the presence of two keyboard virtuosos (Steffen Kahles and CAMERA founder member Timm Brockmann). Finding replacements for “Prosthuman” was, as Michael Drummer stresses, “a difficult process.” The two keyboardists had – in different creative periods – formed the backbone of a band structure otherwise prone to fluctuations. Decisive input came from an unlikely source: Tim Schroeder, who first teamed up with CAMERA as a performance and video artist on their six-week tour of the USA in 2017.

            Over the course of various jams and recording sessions, he was able to offer ample proof of his synthesizers skills. Alex Kozmidi, a musician and composer with a flair for experimentation, completed the triumvirate on guitar, with Michael Drummer adding his own guitar riffs here and there. Change and friction can be useful allies in pursuit of creativity, something to which Drummer has grown accustomed as the only ever-present member of CAMERA. The pleasures and pain of isolation – suddenly a mass phenomenon in pandemic times – are well known to the quasi frontman of the group. Over the years, he has spent many hours alone or with a shifting cast of co-musicians in the band’s basement studio, beneath a former factory site in a less than hip southern district of Berlin. Virus-induced social distancing and quarantine measures that came into force during the recording process (June 2019 to June 2020) thus posed no great challenge.

            STAFF COMMENTS

            Barry says: It's always a delight when something hits the shelves from Bureau B. This time sees Camera revisiting their familiar heady kosmische groove, albeit with different staff. Drummer and Schroeder here perfect the warmingly organic duality of synthesiser and live percussion, resulting in a fluid but cohesive build and release narrative and a hypnotic, rhythmic nod.

            TRACK LISTING

            Side A
            1.Kartoffelstampf
            2.Alar Alar
            3.Prosthuman / Apptime
            4.Überall Teilchen / Teilchen Überall
            5.Freundschaft

            Side B
            1.El Ley
            2.Schmwarf
            3.A2
            4.Chords4 / Kurz Vor
            5.Harmonite

            Exclusive Dinked Bonus 12”:
            A2 – Lloyd Cole Remix
            Schmwarf – The Telescopes Threw A Way Through Experimental Health Version
            Alar Alar – Love-Songs Remix
            Prosthuman – Extnddntwrk Remix (Andrew Robert Lindsay Fearn Of Sleaford Mods)
            Freundschaft – Dead Skeletons Planet Book Remix (Ryan Van Kriedt, Henrik Björnsson)

            Started as the so called 'Krautrock Guerrilla' in 2012, six years later the Berlin combo Camera are releasing their fourth full-length album. Customarily associated with the likes of NEU! and La Dusseldorf it is time to allow Camera to break free of the krautrock tradition and accept that they are very much doing their own thing now. Motto: "It's not repetition, it’s discipline"

            TRACK LISTING

            1. Gizmo
            2. Patrouille
            3. Ciao Cacao
            4. Himmelhilf
            5. Cosm
            6. Pacific One
            7. Nicenstein
            8. Super 8
            9. Feuerwerk

            The beat hammers like the pulse of a pair of lovers on the run from a gang of racist thugs - the sound is manic, but from it speaks a seemingly insurmountable inner strength. This arch of tension is home to Camera. The Berlin band is rightly compared with icons of seventies Krautrock such as Neu! and La Düsseldorf, with a tight and driving sound, yet they are still somehow unpredictable. Hardly any other band understands how to mutate tiny musical nuances into volcanic eruptions like they do. Camera is a motor running at full throttle, where an explosion could occur at any second. Once you have embarked on this crazy journey, you will be fascinated by the alternating current somewhere between a flash flood and roller coaster running off the rails. The cascades of sound convey a blurry image of a boundless desire to revolt, with each blink of an eye threatening to end in purgatory, yet it is damned near indestructible.

            Michael Drummer is the ethereal Indian paleface who pummels his drums at every show as if we're in the midst of a 17th Century incarnational ritual. In Steffen Kahles, who hails from the world of film music, he has found the musical partner he needed to enrich the tribal kraut beat with diverse motifs and bold sounds. On the third Camera album "Phantom of Liberty", we hear the clever use of playful sounds such as synths that beam us back into the Commodore 64 computer games of 1984; or slightly cranky keyboard pads, as if created by deliberately manipulating the speed of an old tape machine. With "Phantom of Liberty" Camera show that they have become more mature and complex without losing any of their tremendous energy.

            STAFF COMMENTS

            Laura says: This third album from Berlin trio Camera continues along a similar, if slightly more meandering, Kraut-rock path as their previous releases, a path already well trodden by the likes of Neu! and La Düsseldorf. The scope of their sound has expanded this time around though, and along with the pummelling drums and motorik rhythms we expect, there are a whole host of keyboard experiments going on: fluid synth washes, spacey swooshes, bleeps and squiggles. At times it sounds like they're soundtracking an 80s computer game, and at others the eerie electronics would be the perfect backdrop to a sci-fi movie. They've definitely upped their game on this album.

            TRACK LISTING

            1. Affenfaust
            2. Fröhlichkeit
            3. Festus
            4. Nevernine
            5. Ildefons
            6. Reindenken / Raus
            7. Tjamahal
            8. Tribal Mango

            In Camera

            Era

              In Camera - David Steiner (vocals / keyboards), Andrew Gray (guitar), Pete Moore (bass) and Jeff Wilmott (drums) - are among the more mysterious acts of 4AD’s early alumni (Bauhaus, The Birthday Party, MASS, Modern English, Rema- Rema, The The).

              Active between 1978 and 1981, in the thick of London’s postpunk scene, they enjoyed an intense and fruitful short time together. Coming to the label’s attention when they supported Bauhaus at the Billy’s venue in Soho, their only releases came with two singles in 1980 - the double A-side 7” of ‘Final Achievement’ and ‘Die Laughing’ and the ‘IV Songs’ EP. Calling it a day before they recorded an album, 4AD fittingly issued the posthumous release of the 12” EP, ‘Fin’, using the band’s epic, three-track John Peel Session.

              Ten years after amicably splitting, 4AD released the now long out of print retrospective CD, ‘13 (Lucky For Some)’, coercing the band back in to a studio to record four songs they had played live but not committed to tape to complete the release.

              Things returned to quiet until interest to licence their music from experimental French label Desire Records (who subsequently pressed up a limited mini-album of the first two singles entitled ‘IV Songs + II’ in 2011) sparking In Camera’s interest to compile ‘Era’, the definitive and final word on their band.

              ‘Era’ focuses solely on their earlier material with the deluxe, double CD package containing their three singles in chronological order on disc one and eleven not before released tracks on disc two - two demos, four live recordings and five tracks from a recently found rehearsal tape.

              The gatefold LP version has all but one track from the three singles and seven of the not before released tracks spread over two records, also coming with a download card for all tracks.

              Camera

              Remember I Was Carbon Dioxide

                Krautrock, that perennial badge of hipness. The ultimate honorary title for repetitive music, as played by Camera. In fact, the Berlin band's penchant for playing without permission in underground stations or other public places (in the gents at the Echo awards ceremony) has seen them dubbed "Krautrock Guerilla". Camera are not seeking to emulate the sound of older Krautrock bands, in any case. Nor have they been listening incessantly to NEU! or Can.

                "Perhaps we just have the same angle of approach" suggests keyboard player Timm Brockmann, "we start playing and simply go with the flow." Motorik-driven, energetic stretches laced with psychedelic overtones rise up from keyboards, drums and guitars, much as they did for the pioneers of German Krautrock some forty years ago. On the back of "Radiate!", their debut album in 2012, Camera extended their range to Russia and the USA.

                Whilst "Radiate!" was entirely the product of studio improvisation, "Remember I Was Carbon Dioxide" sees Timm Brockmann and drummer Michael Drummer revisit and revise jams supplemented by various different guitarists and other guest musicians, exploring the possibilities of the studio as a reflection loop. Without losing sight of their overriding impulse to improvise-which is, after all, the essence of Camera.

                The Cinematic Orchestra

                Man With A Movie Camera

                  Originally written for a one off live performance to accompany Dziga Vertov's classic 1929 Russian silent film 'Man With A Movie Camera', some of these tracks ("Evolution", "All Things"), and their 70s free-jazz inspired style went on to become the backbone of the "Everyday" sessions. Finally J Swinscoe and Co have gone into the studio and recorded the tracks (live) for this proper soundtrack LP.

                  Arthur & Yu

                  In Camera

                    Arthur & Yu are Seattle's answer to Nancy & Lee. A beautifully hazy record, "In Camera" is the perfect album to compliment the coming of Autumn. Think drifty, 60s, folky pop, half Velvets for its lo-fi simplicity and half West-coast dreamland for its otherworldly laidbackness. Lovely.

                    Camera Obscura

                    Let's Get Out Of This Country

                    "Let's Get Out Of This Country" is a master class in intelligent, melodic 'retro-modern pop'. Producer Jari Happalainen (The Concretes, Ed Harcourt) has shaped a cohesive collection of classic songs which are, at turns upbeat ("If Looks Could Kill"), downbeat ("Country Mile"), hooky ("I Need All The Friends I Can Get") and epic ("Razzle Dazzle Rose").

                    Camera Obscura

                    Under Achievers Please Try Harder

                    Camera Obscura are a seven piece from Glasgow, who started releasing records in the late 90s on the Andmoresound label. Afer a year of touring and recording, they've now released the follow-up to their Geoff Allen (Arab Strap, Mogwai, Teenage Fanclub, Belle & Sebastian) produced debut album, and the single "Eighties Fan" which was produced by Stuart Murdoch of Belle & Sebastian. On "Underachievers, Please Try Harder" they've broadened their sound by bringing in new organs and a Fender Rhodes piano, and trying out 12-string acoustic, banjo and autoharp on some tracks, even utilising a Stylophone.

                    Black Sun Ensemble

                    Hymn Of The Master

                      These Texans were really amongst the first bands to explore the stoner rock ethos by mixing largely instrumental tracks with drugged up, spaced out, psychedelic dope anthems. Jesus Acedo's guitar playing is a major highlight (Hendrix / Page / McLaughlin blurred with Ravi Shankar). Zepplinesque rhythms, phasing and mescaline visions where layered ghost voices meet monstrously drugged riffs offset against giant peals of progressive keyboard while submerged vocals fight to grope their way through.

                      The Goblin Market

                      Ghostland

                        New project from Jeff Kelly, songwriter of cult psych prog outfit Green Pajamas, joined here by new member Laura Weller. Goblin Market continues Jeff's fascination with pre-Raphaelite painters, poets and Victorian writer Christina Rossetti and the music is an inspired blend of acoustic acid folk with winsome prog-psychedelic elements and utilises as lyrics the poetry of Lizzie Siddal, Rossetti and Emily Bronte.


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