Radiate (Bureau B)
by Phil Freeman
Camera are a German trio making instrumental music in the classic Krautrock tradition, but rather than come up with a style uniquely their own as the pioneering artists did (Can, Neu!, Cluster/Kluster, Harmonia, Tangerine Dream, et al.), they have created a synthesis of various approaches. They employ the trancelike and occasionally trance-inducing “motorik” beat of Neu!, with the swooping guitar and keyboard riffs of latter-day, movie-soundtrack Tangerine Dream layered on top, and occasionally, on their quieter, more psychedelic numbers, they’re reminiscent of Soon Over Babaluma or Future Days-era Can.
Naturally, they’ve been embraced by the Krautrock fanbase, as well as the veteran musicians who pioneered the style and scene in the early to mid-1970s. Here’s a video of Camera jamming with Michael Rother (Neu!) and Dieter Moebius (Cluster/Kluster, Harmonia) one year ago today, on October 22, 2011:
On their own debut album, though, the challenge before them is to establish a unique identity beyond being mere imitators of their idols. They manage it, mostly because of their history as a live act. Camera prefer guerrilla performance to traditionally structured shows; they play in the subway or under bridges, and sometimes (more interestingly) they even sneak into official parties, plug in quickly, and play until security realizes they haven’t been hired to be there, and throws them out. This provocative, take-the-music-to-the-people sort of artistic stance will turn almost any band into a highly disciplined unit very quickly, and as a result, there’s not an ounce of fat on Radiate. The album offers eight tracks in 52:19, all but one running between four and seven minutes (“Lynch” nudges the 11-minute mark). They alternate between rockers and placidly trippy interludes, but even at their mellowest, they’re never self-indulgent. Melodies emerge, are explored through repetition and subtle, slight variation, then retired. The music is layered, almost like techno, despite being created on relatively minimal instrumentation (guitar, synth, a four-piece drum kit) and recorded live in the studio. It’s easy to imagine these guys’ work appealing as much to fans of retro-minded synth/trance-rock acts like Trans Am, Zombi, or even Circle as to gray-haired Krautrock obsessives seeking a band of youngsters to push their nostalgia buttons.
Here’s the band’s somewhat retina-frying video for “Ausland”: