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Camera Obscura (album)

Camera Obscura (album)

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Camera Obscura is the name of an experimental
Experimental music
Experimental music refers, in the English-language literature, to a compositional tradition which arose in the mid-20th century, applied particularly in North America to music composed in such a way that its outcome is unforeseeable. Its most famous and influential exponent was John Cage...

 avant-garde music
Avant-garde music
Avant-garde music is a term used to characterize music which is thought to be ahead of its time, i.e. containing innovative elements or fusing different genres....

 album recorded and released by Nico
Nico
Nico was a German singer, lyricist, composer, musician, fashion model, and actress, who initially rose to fame as a Warhol Superstar in the 1960s...

 in 1985
1985 in music
This is a list of notable events in music that took place in the year 1985.-January–March:*January 1 - The newest music video channel, VH-1, debuts on American cable. It is aimed at an older demographic than its sister station, MTV...

. It was produced by John Cale
John Cale
John Davies Cale, OBE is a Welsh musician, composer, singer-songwriter and record producer who was a founding member of the experimental rock band The Velvet Underground....

, marking their first studio collaboration since The End in 1974. It was Nico's final studio album before her death three years later.

Sound


Nico's vocal style is somewhat different from her prior records, with some songs bearing similarities to Dead Can Dance
Dead Can Dance
Dead Can Dance are an ethereal neoclassical duo formed in Melbourne, Australia, in August 1981, by Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry. The band relocated to London in May 1982 and disbanded in 1998. Their 1996 album Spiritchaser reached No. 1 on the Billboard Top World Music Albums Chart...

's Lisa Gerrard. The jazz standard "My Funny Valentine", by contrast, has a more standard legato
Legato
In musical notation the Italian word legato indicates that musical notes are played or sung smoothly and connected. That is, in transitioning from note to note, there should be no intervening silence...

 vocal style, despite her very deep contralto
Contralto
Contralto is the deepest female classical singing voice, with the lowest tessitura, falling between tenor and mezzo-soprano. It typically ranges between the F below middle C to the second G above middle C , although at the extremes some voices can reach the E below middle C or the second B above...

. Many of the tracks offer a refined version of the new wave gothic rock of her previous album, Drama in Exile. The album is dedicated to her then manager, Alan Wise.

Sonically, the album follows on from Drama of Exile in that Nico's core songs are given full band arrangements. Whereas Drama of Exile carried a strong North African influence and exotic, New Wave
New Wave music
New Wave is a subgenre of :rock music that emerged in the mid to late 1970s alongside punk rock. The term at first generally was synonymous with punk rock before being considered a genre in its own right that incorporated aspects of electronic and experimental music, mod subculture, disco and 1960s...

-inspired instrumentation, Camera Obscura makes use of synths and drum programming.

Songs


The album's oldest composition, "König," was originally recorded for Desertshore
Desertshore
Desertshore is Nico's third solo album, recorded and released in 1970. It was co-produced by John Cale and Joe Boyd. Like its predecessor The Marble Index, it is an avant-garde album with neoclassical elements....

and re-recorded some fifteen years later for Camera Obscura. A version was included in the Philippe Garrel
Philippe Garrel
Philippe Garrel is a French director, cinematographer, screenwriter, editor and producer. His movies have won him awards at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival and Venice Film Festival...

 fim, La Cicatrice Intérieure (1972). John Cale reportedly wanted to produce the song with a more percussive, synth-based arrangement in keeping with the rest of the material, but Nico insisted it should be kept as a solo harmonium piece.

Another early song re-imagined for the recording sessions was "Tananore," which Nico had performed at a Cale concert in Marseille
Marseille
Marseille , known in antiquity as Massalia , is the second largest city in France, after Paris, with a population of 852,395 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Marseille extends beyond the city limits with a population of over 1,420,000 on an area of...

 on April 12, 1975 and kept in her set ever since. Nico had incorporated "My Funny Valentine" into her set since February 1982. "My Heart Is Empty" and "Fearfully in Danger," meanwhile, had been set mainstays since her Library Theatre appearance in Manchester
Manchester
Manchester is a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England. According to the Office for National Statistics, the 2010 mid-year population estimate for Manchester was 498,800. Manchester lies within one of the UK's largest metropolitan areas, the metropolitan county of Greater...

 on June 16, 1983.

Nico performed songs from Camera Obscura up until her death, although there are no known performances of opening instrumental "Camera Obscura" or the song "Into the Arena."

Track listing


All tracks written by Nico except where noted. All arrangements by The Faction.

Side one
  1. "Camera Obscura" - 3:42 (Nico
    Nico
    Nico was a German singer, lyricist, composer, musician, fashion model, and actress, who initially rose to fame as a Warhol Superstar in the 1960s...

    , John Cale
    John Cale
    John Davies Cale, OBE is a Welsh musician, composer, singer-songwriter and record producer who was a founding member of the experimental rock band The Velvet Underground....

    , James Young, Graham Dids)
  2. "Tananore" - 4:24
  3. "Win a Few" - 6:10
  4. "My Funny Valentine
    My Funny Valentine
    "My Funny Valentine" is a show tune from the 1937 Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart musical Babes in Arms in which it was introduced by former child star Mitzi Green...

    " - 3:23 (Richard Rodgers
    Richard Rodgers
    Richard Charles Rodgers was an American composer of music for more than 900 songs and for 43 Broadway musicals. He also composed music for films and television. He is best known for his songwriting partnerships with the lyricists Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II...

    , Lorenz Hart
    Lorenz Hart
    Lorenz "Larry" Milton Hart was the lyricist half of the famed Broadway songwriting team Rodgers and Hart...

    )
  5. "Das Lied vom einsamen Mädchen" - 5:40 (Robert Gilbert
    Robert Gilbert (musician)
    Robert Gilbert was a German composer of light music, lyricist, singer, and actor. His father was Max Winterfeld, a composer and conductor who went by the pen name of Jean Gilbert...

    , Heyman)

Side two
  1. "Fearfully in Danger" - 7:26
  2. "My Heart Is Empty" - 4:37
  3. "Into the Arena" - 4:12
  4. "König
    König
    König is the German word for king. In German and other languages that use the umlaut the spellings König and Koenig are interchangeable. As a surname in English-language use Koenig is usual, or occasionally the umlaut is simply dropped, giving the form Konig...

    " - 4:08

Personnel

  • Nico: voice, harmonium
    Harmonium
    A harmonium is a free-standing keyboard instrument similar to a reed organ. Sound is produced by air being blown through sets of free reeds, resulting in a sound similar to that of an accordion...

  • The Faction:
    • James Young: keyboards
    • Graham Dids: percussion
  • John Cale
    John Cale
    John Davies Cale, OBE is a Welsh musician, composer, singer-songwriter and record producer who was a founding member of the experimental rock band The Velvet Underground....

    : vocals on "Camera Obscura"
  • Ian Carr
    Ian Carr
    Ian Carr was a Scottish jazz musician, composer, writer, and educator.-Early years:Carr was born in Dumfries, Scotland, the elder brother of Mike Carr...

    : trumpet on "My Funny Valentine", "Into the Arena"
  • Dave Young - engineer

External links

  • Allmusic [ link]