German synthpop act Camouflage may have spent much of the late 1980s and early 1990s imitating a selection of your other synthpop acts, but by 2006 they definitely had a sound of their own. Relocated was their seventh album, and it’s probably fair to say that it was their most mature to date.
In general, it takes a similar form to the preceding album Sensor. After Memory, a short instrumental, it launches in earnest with We Are Lovers, which probably should have been a single but definitely wasn’t. Ultimately, as with much of Camouflage‘s output, it comes across as a bit vacuous, but it’s still pretty good. First single Motif Sky takes a similar form – you can see why they picked it as a single, but what on earth does any of it mean?
What Relocated does have going for it is quite an unusual sound and rhythm, and when they let the songs take their own form, that can be pretty effective. Real Thing, for example, is completely unlike anything that anybody else was releasing at this time (and quite possibly since), and therefore easily stands out.
By 2006, the more abstract soft synths such as Absynth were well established, and had started to make headway into the world of music, and Passing By in particular sounds heavily influenced by them, with its churning bass part and heavy filters. There are also strong rock influences, which show their face particularly on Confusion, perhaps the one track on here that seems to be screaming out for some guitars, although of course it sounds no worse for not having them.
A guitar – albeit an acoustic one – does turn up for The Perfect Key, and gives Camouflage the chance to demonstrate that after a decade and a half of making music, they’re actually pretty competent songwriters. As always, the lyrics have suffered a little by being in the wrong language (I’ve never really understood why German bands don’t write more of their songs in their mother tongue), but it’s generally pretty strong.
Another short instrumental Stream gently guides us through to Dreaming, another piece which feels as though it might benefit from some guitar work. It makes for a slightly odd sound, but it does work.
If this album has any real failing, it’s that it has too many tracks – we’ve still only had one of the three singles by this stage, and when the third, The Pleasure Remains, turns up, you’re starting to feel as though this album has been going on for quite a long time. It’s another good song though – again, this is rock-flavoured synthpop with a distinct Teutonic leaning, and that’s a pretty good sound to have.
On it goes. The pleasantly choral Bitter Taste leads to guitar-driven (finally!) second single Something Wrong, and another intrumental, Light. Finally, we get the best track on here, the adorably endless How Do You Feel? Which would have been a great place to end proceedings, but at this stage in their career Camouflage appear to have been unable to just say stop – there are actually hidden tracks at both ends of this album, and Last Contact, tucked away right at the end, is a particularly long one.
But apart from needing a bit of editing here and there, Relocated is a very strong album, particularly for so late in their career. Camouflage have a lot to be proud of, but I wonder if this album might in fact be their best?
Import editions of Relocated are widely available – try here for starters.