Sydney trio Cameras are hot stuff down under. Australian indie kids lapped up their debut album when it was released over there at the end of last year. A more muted release awaits In Your Room on this side of the world, but given time the response is likely to be similar.
Their intense, melodramatic guitar sound inevitably sees them likened, rather flatteringly, to The National and Arcade Fire. In reality, Cameras are a band divided, with one part studying early Interpol and the other taking lessons from Cat Power and Goldfrapp. The latter part comes courtesy of singer/keyboard player Eleanor Dunlop, and it’s she who steers the opening track, Polarise. Like the rest of her share of the album’s nine tracks, the heavy-set music weaves around her vocal; a dreamy, blurred, cotton wool voice that sounds as spooked as it does confused. It’s thick and layered; it wouldn’t be out of place over an M83 track. It’s at its best on single June, a piano-led number that is more melodic than many of the Dunlop songs, but still relies on her un-pronounced, lilting vocals for the atmosphere that characterises them.
If that all sounds a bit soft and safe, there could still be a Cameras for you. The other driving force of the band, singer/guitarist Fraser Harvey’s half of the album sounds like a different band entirely. From the record’s second track, Kreuzberg, he takes a completely different approach, shunning Dunlop’s dramatic elfin approach for a sleazy, aggressive style that sounds all the more menacing coming straight after Polarised. “I want you to surrender,” he threatens, in a near-robotic post-punk snarl. It’s back again for Patience It Was The Truth: “Patience was a monochrist, then she was the sea, she used to be the silo for my wants and needs…” he almost chants over a sparse wall of industrial crunches, his voice eerily detached from the lusty longing squeezed into the song.
Defeatist could also have been lifted from Interpol’s Turn On The Bright Lights. A more reflective, late night Harvey again leaves his unblinking growl engrained as he pleads: “For a minute I was wondering if you’d come.”
The two sides rarely meet in anything but mood, and strangely the time they do come together is during the album’s title track, In Your Room. An instrumental that manages to capture the haunting whisps of Dunlop and the bleak aggression of Harvey, their worlds collide for a brilliant three minutes that’s at times unsettling and says more than all their words combined.
In Your Room is an unusual album, and engrossing for it. It’s flamboyant and cinematic, but at the same time has a simple premise – they’re a trio that sound like a trio. For some the variety in the two sides to Cameras will be what makes them, while for others Dunlop’s songs will be padding around songs that stay with you for much longer.