Rarest of the Camouflage albums comes back with a vengeance!
SRFireside | Houston, TX United States | 09/01/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Camouflage has been making electronic music since the 80's and through the years they have shown the ability to evolve into making music beyond their core style. Spice Crackers was their fifth album and was made back in the mid-90's. The style of this album is likely their strongest deviation from what many would say Depeche Mode-esque while at the same time being a straight up electronic dance music album. To me the experiment was a complete success and shows just how good Camouflage can be outside their basic element.
In essence this album is pure Camouflage. The reason is because in this album musicians Marcus Meyn and Heiko Maile were given complete creative freedom when making this album. The elements on this album not only included more creative approaches to their music but also some rewritten tracks from an opera project that the two were working on previously.
Camouflage to me plays more on the electro end when it comes to their rhythmic section; using early analog sounding drums and basses for most of their songs. I guess you can say the same on some of the rest of the instrumentation. However it doesn't sound old school dated. It can stand right up with lots of electronica music made in that era.
The original album was only released in parts of Europe and even then there were only a few thousand printed. It is one of the band's rarest albums. Good news is now the album is being re-released, remastered and with a whole second CD full of bonus music. Here is a breakdown of the tracks and a brief description of them as well:
1: Spice Crackers - Has an old eastern European feel to the melody and the beat is a bit broken up so this won't ever hit the dance floor. Lots of sound effects and samples (I particularly like the Wallace and Gromit reference).
2: X-Ray - This is the original album version, which is not the same version you may have heard from the music video (which I believe is the Transformer Single). To me the album version is a more pure version that focuses more on the music than the club beats).
3, 4: Kraft and Electronic Music - These songs go together. They have the same instrumentation, beats, and melodies. They are laid back, mellow, and really nice to listen to. Kraft has Marcus doing a poetic spoken word while Electronic Music is all instrumental. You can put the two together seamlessly or play them separately, but if I recall correctly Kraft gets broken at the end while EM shows no breaks.
5: Bad News - It sounds a little different than the version in the Rewind (Best of) album, but not by much. The album version is longer with very slightly different instrumentation. This is what I call a song in motion. The bass line hardly lets up as it keeps the music moving forward. This was one of the bigger hits from the album and it's well worth the accolades.
6: Days Run Wild - This is more a straight up listen-and-enjoy song than something to dance or groove to. It's still electronic and it's still oozing with style. The tempo is slower than the dance songs, but it's not a ballad or mellow track. Good melodies and some clever wordplay in the chorus. Just about right for listening.
7: A Place in China (Heaven's Not) - It's kind of like a protest song, but it's much more. The synth hook is a bit dissonant or at least unconventional, and it works. The lyrics are okay while at the same time catchy. For me the music does it for me, especially when you get to the bridge/chorus. My daughter (who is all hip hop and latin-pop) is strangely compelled to sing along to this song every time I play it.
8: Zwischenspiel 2 - It's a dissonant short song that's heavy into industrial rhythms. I'm not much a fan of it and if I had a choice I would prefer the first Zwischenspiel Camouflage made years ago.
9: Funky Service - Straight up old school instrumental. I kind of have a take it or leave it impression of it. The synths are distractingly analog and there isn't much melody involved.
10: Back to Heaven - It's a little more aggressive and driving like X-Ray, but with more going on in the instrumentation side. A bit ominous with inspiring parts peppered in. A good song.
11: Je Suis Le Dieu - Lyrics mainly in French (obviously). It's a bit laid back with some deep bass lines followed by a tiny bit of avantgarde. Not a lyrical song, but more an rhythmic ambient piece.
12: Rhonda's Trigger - Clocking in at close to ten minutes it's the longest Camouflage album song to date. It's a great electronic piece that doesn't get boring. My only gripe is a part in the song where you hear "porn noises" which kills it for me in that spot. Other than that this song is a perfect showcase for Camouflage's experiment.
13: Travelling Without Moving - It's really just a short coda to Rhonda's Trigger that's more industrial or ambient noises put together as a set piece. Not really music.
14: Spacetrain - Fast moving and reflective. This song boasts much of that electro feel I keep mentioning along with metaphoric lyrics that bely that this isn't a sci-fi song. Hard too see this as the ending of the album as it keeps you wanting a little more.
CD-2 (the bonus goodies)
1: Spice Crackers (FX Mix) - It's short ambient piece that really goes deep into the intro of the album version. Not a dancing, singing song. Not really a song. More an aural effect.
2: Bad News (Aural Float Mix) - Really different sounding track. A bit more laid back while at the same time having a tight dance beat. This is the same track that was in the extremely rare three LP single set.
3: The Search for Ray Milland - This song is similar to another single of their called Watch Out and in my opinion vastly superior to it. Laid back with solid rhythmic section and semi-ambient elements. This is the exact same song that was in the X-Ray single.
4: Wet Electronics - From the Bad News single. It's a mellow ambient-ish foray with electro-industrial rhythms and other analog sounds. It's okay I guess, but I don't feel any real purpose or structure in the song (probably why it's a b-side).
5. Back to Heaven (Flanger Mix) - Just like the name sounds. Much of the song is in a flanged effect plate room. Luckily the 808 drums aren't affected, but other than that it's mostly a dissonant mix as opposed to the original.
6. Spacetrain (Ambient Mix) - Mostly the same song on the album but without the drums and singing. It's interesting to see how different a song's pace and feel changes with just a few omissions.
7. Je Suis le Dieu (Demo Version) - Just as it sounds this is the original song before it was refined for the album. Sounds much more like classic Camouflage and would have fit well in their Voices and Images era.
8. Liberation (part 2) - I didn't get to hear a lot of this song, but what I did get was ambient and very lush in the synths.
9. Steward - Kind of sounds like Spacetrain but mellowed out. Nice percussive effects. Good song.
10. Eros Lunch - Another one I didn't get much of a listen to, but what I heard made it sweetly ambient with distorted drums that don't drown out the ambiance.
11. 5 Seconds - More like five minutes. More ambient, soundtrack-like music. Maybe it's atmospheric music for the opera they worked on?
12. The Kroepppelshagen Tapes #3 - Very avantgarde, but you can follow it. It has distortion that I don't know if it is intentional or not (sounds good, though(. No idea what it was for.
13. The Kroepppelshagen Tapes #3 - Sounds like pre-Autobahn Kraftwerk. Maybe that's what they were going for? If you like that era you will love this.
14. Band Introduction by Wu Shan Zhuan - Not sure why this is in here. It's just a Chinese guy naming off the musicians in the band as well as Camouflage (as a duo) themselves. Maybe it's just to pack as much "stuff" in the CD as possible.
Spice Crackers was a great album that most Camouflage or EDM fans missed out on due to its rarity. Now you not only get a second chance to get this great music, but it's a better chance. Remastered tracks (with a very noticeable difference... I have the original SC CD) and an album full of bonus tracks is hard to beat.
basementjack | Chicago, IL USA | 09/20/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a re-release of a 1995 Album by Camouflage.
I listened to the CD for the first time tonight.
Thoughts so far:
I liked it right away (Sensor and Relocated took a bit longer to adjust to - but both were CD's that lasted for quite a while in my daily commute to work)
Once again I am glad I bought the CD version vs the MP3 as I believe the CD's sound better and this CD sounds Fantastic.