Camera Obtusa - "Whistling Rufus: Soundscapes Volume III"
(InstrumenTales Records 2001)
From Aural Innovations #16 (June 2001)
Camera Obtusa is a duo consisting of Artemis Biglips on percussion, drones, ambient sounds, and squeaks, and Alonzo Phillips (Asteroid Schoolhouse) on dobro, homemade instruments, and sounds. The pair have created some interesting music that is a bit different than what might usually be expected from a soundscapes album. Drones are the standard basis for the ambience, though guitars often do as well. And there's loads of fun sounds and percussion to keep things interesting throughout.
"Quasimodo Padlock" and "Put Your Beat Feet Forward" are standout tracks that include Frippoid guitar-scapes. The former is a glom of quiet drones, brief Frippoid sounds, percussion, and plucked dobro which added something different to the mix. "Put Your Beat Feet Forward" includes whining Frippoid guitar-scapes and harsher guitar notes along with hip-hoppy beats. A nice combination of guitar sounds. I have to say the dobro is a nice touch, an instrument not typically used in ambient music. It's prominent again on "Gandalf Signals". The drones create a dark ambient backdrop over which a slow parade of sounds add the scenery.
"Slow Forest With Smash" is one of my favorites. A quirky pace is set, almost like an avant-garde musical or something like The Residents "Mark Of The Mole". I think that's a good analogy. "Vinyl" is a quiet ambient space piece, but with varied percussion and a low droned turntable scratching type sound that soon mutates into a droned, drugged organ melody. The 'strum' part of "Whistling Rufus Strums" is what creates the ambience of the piece. And what's becoming apparent as a trademark of Camera Obtusa's music is the scenery created by percussion and a dancing, bouncing variety of sounds, many of them having a strong percussive quality too.
In summary, Camera Obtusa offer a twist on standard soundscape music. Dobro, homemade instruments, and percussion provide unexpected sounds, and the off-kilter quirkiness of much of the music makes for an always interesting and enjoyable ride.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz