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Camera Obscura - Shepherds Bush Empire, London, 23/4/2009

  by Chris O'Toole

published: 19 / 4 / 2009

Camera Obscura - Shepherds Bush Empire, London, 23/4/2009


Chris O' Toole watches Glaswegian pop-ensemble Camera Obscura play a a rewarding, but also strangely downbeat show at Shepherd's Bush Empire in London

Those hardy travellers who have made the journey up to the Royal Observatory in London may have had the pleasure of entering the Camera Obscura perched atop the hill there - overlooking Greenwich and the Royal Maritime Museum. Inside the darkened chamber guests huddle around the stone counter to take in the view of the outside world offered by the primitive device – gasping in awe at the simple wonder of it. What they see is a blurry image of the Maritime Museum and its bucolic surrounds; a fractured, beautiful image shimmering timelessly. Following their namesake, the Glaswegian pop-ensemble of the same name (which roughly translates to darkened chamber in Latin) offer a kaleidoscopic interpretation of their influences – placing C-86 sensibilities alongside the girlish optimism of Phil Spector's charges, the Ronettes and the Crystals. While not a carbon copy of these well worn and worthy touchstones of musical history, Camera Obscura take their awareness of melody and meld it to their own modern paradigm. Tonight at the Shepherds Bush Empire their full range of intuitive talents are on display. While some of the more expensive seats remain unsold, the crowd that has assembled is eager and expectant – a loyal troupe come to celebrate. With two guitarists, keys, drums and two additional instrumentalists all surrounding vocalist and focal point Tracyanne Campbell their sound is at once luscious and precise. Miniature building blocks are composed to create their intricate sound from the offset as they play selections from new album 'My Maudlin Career'. Slow to start, 'Honey in the Sun' finally draws warm praise from the crowd, along with new single 'French Navy', before the maudlin 'James' slows proceedings down. Augmented by pedal steel guitar player Tim Davidson (on sabbatical from support act Attic Lights) the group hit their stride, charmingly intertwining their numerous elements into an almost classical sound. The material could have been released at any time since the Wall of Sound first went up, but Campbell's wry observational lyrics keep things contemporary. 'Lloyd, I'm Ready to be Heartbroken' - the opening track of the revered breakthrough album 'Let's Get out of this Country' - again elicits warm applause. In their pomp the group rivals kindred spirits Belle and Sebastian, but, never ones to go for wild abandon. have a more serious, focused sound than their Scottish contemporaries – and this shows in the group demeanour. Every smile seems grudging for Tracyanne Campbell as they depart the stage of what is an ostensibly celebratory set; but a rewarding, if not overwhelming, experience none the less.

Picture Gallery:-
Camera Obscura - Shepherds Bush Empire, London, 23/4/2009

Camera Obscura - Shepherds Bush Empire, London, 23/4/2009

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Interview (2006)
Camera Obscura - Interview
Camera Obscura are about to celebrate their 10th year as a band. With their new album 'Let's Get Out of This Country' now out, Jamie Rowland speaks to singer Tracyanne Campbell about it and the importance of the internet in their work

live reviews

Barrymore's, Ottawa, 30/1/2007
Camera Obscura - Barrymore's, Ottawa, 30/1/2007
At a show at Barrymore's in Ottawa, Andrew Carver watches Camera Obscura play an enchanting set of Belle and Sebastian-style pop, but have some of their thunder stolen by the country-influnced sunshine pop of support act the Essex Green


French Navy (2009)
Excellent 60's soul-influenced indiepop on latest single from Glaswegian group, Camera Obscura
My Maudlin Career (2009)

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