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Camera – Remember I Was Carbon Dioxide

Bureau B

Camera - Remember I Was Carbon Dioxide

I confess, I was in two minds about this one. When Freq’s esteemed editor suggested that I review the second album by Camera (their debut Radiate appeared in 2012), my internal braking system engaged almost at once. Reading the accompanying blurb, it was pushing the band’s Berlin-based, Krautrock-legacy-authenticated brand of guerrilla Kosmische to the hilt, their endorsement and live performances alongside (*cue angelic choir*) Michael Rother and Dieter Moebius lending an air of gravitas to the proceedings way over and above repeated use of the hated M-word.

Do I have anything against such things? Far from it. Faaaaarrr from it. In some things (although sadly not in my terrible trumpet playing) I like to take my cue from Miles Davis: later in his career, when asked why he no longer played the old familiar ballads, he famously replied “Because I love them so much.” Being a Germanophile, a Krautrock fanatic and generally a man vaguely obsessed with Teutonic obscurities from Sylt Island to Saumagen, I was unsure I could get any critical distance from it all. Not that I’m a scientist for Heaven’s sake, having to try my damnedest to stick to methodological rigour in the way that Richard Feynman advocated, but one stills feels duty bound to bring a certain impartiality to bear if one is representing such an august organ as this.

But fuck it – I accepted it anyway. “Do I really need more Krautrock in my life over and above the considerable volume that’s already there? Really, do I? Well then, if this album doesn’t pass muster, cut mustard or piss custard, I shall say so boldly. That’s my Devil’s deal.” Having taken my small son to Iceland for the summer, I decided to subject Remember I Was Carbon Dioxide to a proper time and motion study, cracking it open on the MP3 player during a coach journey back to Reykjavik from the mighty tectonic landscape of þingvellir. The tectonic and the Teutonic – that’s the kind of crazy, multi-‘onic’ proposition that’s all in a day’s work at Freq.

Icelandscape

With the midnight sun spreading its majestic golden light across the truly incredible landscape, woozy with the exertions of the day’s excursions, if this was merely ersatz, it would be cruelly exposed for the sham that it was. If you’re travelling the long highway, heading towards the light, and your soundtrack isn’t performing adequately, then it ain’t the Real Thing™…

And in less time than took to say Eyjafjallajökull, it became apparent that this album was – as they say at The Icelandic Phallological Museum – “a complete stonker.” A dozen tracks of solid gold, ranging from the delicate and aerated to the dense and aggressive. Some have one’s leg tapping along in time, some cause the hand to turn the volume down, but they are all true to the spirit that permeated the new German music of the early to mid-1970s.

Is there anything new here? That’s not really the point; funkelnagelneu ist nichts mehr, as a great German poet once said. In the same way that Spacemen 3 took a historical legacy and created an update version that modern lovers could make their own, so Camera have used their cultural traditions to make a gorgeous record. Would Klaus Dinger approve? Of course not, he was a grumpy old fucker – that’s why we loved him. But these grooves, handed down lo unto the generations by hairy men in brown, can either languish, be used by clots who get the timing but not the meaning, or taken up and used by people who really feel them and know what they’re handling. I would far rather it was the latter, and Camera have proved here that they sit firmly within that camp.

As with Kreidler, the fact that the music lives on in its country of origin is a good thing, given the short shrift that it received there contemporaneously. In Wim Wenders’ thoughtful 1976 road movie Im Lauf der Zeit/Kings of the Road, one of the main characters posits memorably in relation to modern Germany that “The Yanks have colonised our subconscious”, so why shouldn’t some traffic go in the other direction? If I have any quibble, and it’s a small one really, it’s that such spoken word as does occur on the album is in English, rather than German, which I would prefer. Still, as I say, kleines Bier really in the grander scheme of things.

So, forget the often problematic label of Krautrock – many other terms occur really, including ‘kinetic’ – and just enjoy the contents. And if you’re planning a road trip soon, load up the stereo with this burst of CO2 and turn the dial all the way up to 11: Geradeaus führt der Weg bis zum Ende.

-David Solomons-

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