Camera are a band who I have always had high regard for, something that seems to grow with each of their releases. If the band’s previous album ‘Remember I Was Carbon Dioxide‘ marked a move towards a more electronic sound, then ‘Phantom of Liberty’ further completes the move. Furthermore, it also broadens out the band’s styles taking in everything from Berlin influenced electronica (from where the band hail), film scores (one of the band, Steffan Kahles, writes film scores), Krautrock (a diminishing part of the band’s oeuvre, but reflected in recent collaborations with Michael Rother and Dieter Moebius), punk (listen to some of Michael Drummer’s (yes really) drumming), jazz (improvs) and even Indian ragas…to name but a few.
‘Phantom of Liberty’, then, is a diverse album but is far from incoherent. ‘Affenfaust’ it a total blast of an opener with its high tempo hi energy pulsating beat that immediately sets the track up, yet it is where it goes next which is the most satisfying as a more complex set of electronic sounds are introduced to give it a much more nuanced feel than you would initially imagine. Later in the album ‘Tajmahal’ has the same approach, here Drummer gives his equipment a real bashing as the initial heavy synth beat is developed to provide much more shade to what otherwise would have been a very listenable but momo-dimensional track. ‘Nevermine’ is also a great upbeat track which would really get you moving, then with a gentle comedown at the end.
Elsewhere ‘Festus’ is really atmospheric, where use of tabla gives it a raga-like structure; while ‘Ildefons’ could well be imagined as part of a film soundtrack with its airy and effervescent feel through some effective guitar work. ‘Froelichtkeit’ initially seems to have a certain light breezy quality to it, just underneath it feels like there is something darker and more mysterious. This track reminded me of some early Air tracks, with its retro-synth riffs and ever-varying rhythms.
At the beginning you think ‘Reindenken/ Raus’ is going to be something of an abstract track, but I really like the way it quickly falls into something very different as a slow ominous melody is injected into proceedings. Again there is a nod towards a raga beat here, with an interesting mix of styles and instruments competing for room without any ever overwhelming any other. This is far from being an immediate track but it might just be, following repeated listens the most satisfying of the album.
Closing the album is ‘Tribal Mango’ which, like many here, begins atmospherically as if a soundtrack to a film, before breaking out into a post-punk beat that would not be out of place on Joy Division’s ‘Closer’ album, then with some dialogue from NASA missions introduced into the mix as the track gradually develops a more spacey theme. This perhaps is where this album for me represents a step forward because of the way it seemlessly intermingles many different styles and genres in a way that complements them in both senses of the word.
It has taken me fully three months since the album was released for me to finally get to write about it. I normally let it go if I’ve waited so long, but this is an album that has matured in my mind and gets stronger with every list. What started out as an album that I principally though about dancing to has become so much more than that, its a multi-faceted collection of tracks that never seems to stop giving, and provides a different experience every time you listen to it. If I were to write this review yesterday or tomorrow I am sure it would be very different.
Today though it’s a great album that I look forward to experiencing all over again very soon.
‘Phantom of Liberty’ was released by Bureau B in August 2016, and are touring early in 2017: