Sometimes we get some really leftfield curveball discs sent in to review and whereas if they are digital downloads and we can press delete and think, not for us, we do try our best. This is one such example and it comes from a Swiss-Canadian singer songwriter Barbara Lehnhoff who has adopted the stage name Camilla Sparksss. For a start, by our standards, despite the album title this is far from Brutal and the album cover looks like the artist should be gracing the cover of a magazine like Vogue rather than say Metal Hammer. Looking between the lines though I can’t imagine Camilla being a fan of the fashion industry and with her New Wave, post punk, lo-fi form of musical output and her ideas, I am pretty sure she has some very interesting views. These are something you can try and delve into although with the press details I have nothing is particularly forthcoming, or you can obviously listen to the music on a simpler wavelength.
Simplistic it is to a large extent too but you would expect that from something classed as lo-fi. If you are not careful and don’t fully engage with the 35 minute 9 track album it could be over and have passed you pretty much by in a flash. Kind of apt perhaps that the first track is called ‘Forget.’ Minimalist keyboards give this an electronic emphasis and there’s a bit of very slow NiN to the melody. I do like Camila’s voice and it accompanies in beatific, sultry tones but what I don’t care for is the warbling fade in and out sort of effect on this track, it makes it sound like a warped record and is frankly annoying. ‘Are You OK?’ has much more life and depth. The vocals sound almost Native American (apparently the artist grew up in a small town surrounded by Indian Reserves) and has a tone that reminds me of artists like Nebelhexe and the music adopts what can only be described as a Bhangra beat that’s spicy and hypnotic. Still whoever is twiddling nobs again adopts that warped sense to the music and I wish they had been given a slap and told to bloody well stop. ‘Womanized’ is obviously a track with a message and I get a feeling that it is anti-fame, image and possibly against all these vacuous so called celebrities that don’t actually do anything worthwhile except waste oxygen. It also has a really cool near darkwave disco beat and pop sensibilities with the vocals getting wilder and riotously bubblegum sugary. It’s very catchy and quite a delightful song. What can be said about ‘So What?’ Well it certainly isn’t an Anti Nowhere League cover but does almost become more than a little cheeky aping the beat from New Order’s seminal Blue Monday somewhat shamelessly. Still with the sensuous vocals over the top I can’t help swaying along to its beat and flow, caught a bit like a snake charmed out of a basket. As it rises in intensity the power and ballast have all the flavours that could have this being an underground club hit.
There’s certainly plenty of ideas here and each song has own evident individuality making it a versatile listening experience. Songs like ‘She’s A Dream’ with strong near spoken word poeticism make me think along the lines that what we have here is a lady who comes across a bit like a modern day Lydia Lunch and the way girlie tones are taken to the “dangerous place” of ‘Psycho Lover’ prove a perfect dichotomy. Gentle movements are allowed to build and after starting slowly and with beguiling intent the electronic flow of ‘Messing With You builds admirably.’ There are times when I can’t help thinking what an interesting support act Camilla would be for someone like Gary Numan although a song like ‘Walt Deathney’ with brasher parts and near riot grrrl bombast and sudden injection of savage drumming may give a few devotees a bit of a shock. This is definitely the album track that will make listeners sit up and do just that though. By last number ‘Sorry’ it’s evident as far as I’m concerned that Camilla has nothing to apologise. The album may have been an unexpected item in the bagging area so to speak but it certainly has been an experience I have enjoyed.
(7/10 Pete Woods)