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Suburban Shore
Plug Research | 2004 | Album
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Camping’s 2004 release, Suburban Shore, offers a rich blend of Brazilian Bossa Nova, lounge, and electronica elements that deliver a cohesive, flowing and fluid listening experience, with enough twists and variations to keep the audiophile entranced with this 36 minute musical journey.

German singer Henning Fritzenwalder joins Americans Stephen Gardner and Ben Bailes of Chessie to produce this album, recorded in DC for Plug Research. Upon first listen, the rhythmic pace and flow of the songs elicit images of young German fräuleins traveling in a rented Winnebago through an American landscape made exotic by its unfamiliarity and vastness. It’s the sort of music that makes a perfect soundtrack for those dusky moments of revelation which trips often deliver, the romance of a moment’s passing. Bailes and Gardner’s Chessie project, railroad inspired sound waves engineered with sensitivity and subtle nuances…evoking travel and a melancholic nostalgia for the ephemera of places, may be responsible for the tenor of this work.

One would expect that the heavily guttural German language would create an insurmountable dissonance with the Bossa Nova tempo and rhythm of the instrumentals. However, through the hushed delicate whispers of Fritzenwalder, the Germanic tongue is rendered beautifully suited to this form normally associated with the coos, lisps and shushes of Portuguese. The melodic and subtle voice of Frizenwalder evokes Brazilian Bossa Nova legend Joao Gilberto and despite the foreignness and unfamiliarity of the German lyrics, the voice becomes one more lulling and lush instrument in dialogue with casabas, brass and guitar.

The Album’s opening tracks, Hier Wohnen wir (this is where we live), aufgeregt (agitated), and fotographie (photograph) as well as the undulating eighth track Sie sagt (she says), offer a more classically bossa nova/lounge flavor as percussive casabas and brass blend with the melodic, soft and sensual vocals. The tracks are romantic and cohesively flowing with just enough sixties shag to recall the vamping soundtracks of What’s New Pussycat, Barbarella, or the AIR derived stylings of Mellow’s recent nod to that icon of b- movies in the soundtrack for CQ.

But don’t be lulled into thinking that this complex and subtle work is simply easy listening. The fourth track, verbrechen (crime) breaks the lounge/electronica ease of the album with an erratic variation of the bossa nova tempo more reminiscent of the mid-eighties group, Trio, or perhaps Double, Squarepusher, or Dream Academy on a bad trip. The track begins with haunting slow Theremin-like swells interrupted by insistent chimes and background conversation. Guitar and casabas stitch in to create a mood evocative of the sort of unfathomable sadness, loss or desperation sometimes experienced on the platform of railway depots. This track builds in complexity as the analog electronica affects a sound reminiscent of Joy Division’s sense of melancholy. The album’s ten tracks offer a fruitful oscillation between the more playfully romantic bossa nova inspired songs, reminding me favorably of Sebastian Martel, and these more melancholic variations. In this way, it makes the romance and sensual complexity of bossa nova palpable, and in this light, it is almost irresistible. A must have for bossa nova fans. For those searching for some good, evocative mood music, a great little taste of something just a little different, I recommend it.
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