They started as the so called “Krautrock Guerrilla” in 2012, six years later Berlins Camera are releasing their fourth full length LP, Emotional Detox. And whilst traditionally associated with the likes of NEU! and La Düsseldorf it is time now to allow Camera to break free of the krautrock tradition and accept that they are very much doing their own thing now.
The band has been through a number of phases and is now a quintet, with the only constant being Michael Drummer. Keyboarder Timm Brockmann, who left the group in 2014, returns to the fold. By the time Steffen Kahles joined the band, Brockmann had already departed, so the new ensemble adds another twist in bringing together two keyboard players from different Camera phases for the first time. The Brockmann Drummer reunion, meanwhile, completes a circle tracing back to early Camera experiences shared in 2010/11, playing on the streets of Berlin (literally). Paradoxically, the new, expanded Camera line-up sharpens the focus of the tracks running through Emotional Detox. With Drummer not so much joining the dots as hammering them home with a nail gun, the stronger framework allows even greater freedom for the musicians to express and ultimately align their disparate creative interests. Throw a single stone into a pond and concentric circles will ripple outwards into infinity. A swoosh of parallel lines. Boundless symmetry. The soundscape assumes the quality of a cinematic loop, like watching the same film over and over, yet discovering new things each time it plays. As a mythological Mancunian once said before the fall: it’s not repetition, it’s discipline.
The motorik origins of the band documented on their debut LP Radiate! (2012) and the nods to history and William Burroughs on Remember I Was Carbon Dioxide (2014) gave way playfulness on Phantom of Liberty (2016). A spirit of experimentation still abounds, but there’s also evidence that the group have taken a confident step towards something more mainstream, without tearing up the tangled roots beneath the surface of Camera’s studio floor.
They open with ‘Gizmo’ which wastes no time in ascertaining its presence with tripped out riffs and other worldly synth elements that mark its difference from previous offerings. The motorik beats which drives the track is almost the only familiar. ‘Patrouille’ is a darker entity, with a sitar melody overlying the bass and drum drivers. The ethereal synth twinklings punctuate the darkness creating an intoxicating mixture. ‘Ciao Cacao’ returns to the upbeat, with a countenance that could easily fill a dance floor whilst ‘Himmelhilf’ takes a step firmly back to the 80s in many of its tones and beats. ‘Cosm’ is appropriately named, offering slices of space rock interhinged with a rolling bass line in an uncharacteristically short track that ends no sooner than it began.
‘Pacific One’ is most reminiscent of the Camera fans have come to know and adore, yet the depth of sound it presents is testimony to the expanded line up. ‘Nicenstein’ continues in a similar vein with added blissed out melodies that are not what you’d expect on a Camera album yet are not in any way out of place. ‘Super 8’ offers a potential clue to the camera in their own mind’s eye; when Super 8 was introduced in 1965, it was one of the few film formats to accommodate a sound track, occupying the space between the edge of the film and the image area – a nice analogy to consider when pondering where Camera’s music comes from. The pacey track has multiple elements playing essentially the same progression, with varying results and creates an effect of leaving the listener breathless. Concluding ‘Feuerwerk’ is a krautrock masterpiece which builds in its layers of repetition to create a lasting impression that wedges its way into the mind. An appropriate way to end an album if ever there was one!
We live in an age when everything happens at the same time – all of your music in one place, instantaneous streams on mobile devices, encyclopaedic references checked in seconds. The temptation to see connections everywhere can be overwhelming, the speed at which information travels slows us down. Emotional Detox encourages us to disregard these multiple distractions. That’s when detoxification kicks in