vocal improvisations through improbable effects,
surreal Japanese chanson and the occasional roaring punk wailing
Kamura solo livestream at Iklectik, London, UK, 20 June 2020
OsCiLiaTioNs: Solstice Improvised Music Festival
Adorned with fairy lights and wearing a silver
bob wig and big sunglasses, Atsuko Kamura aka Kamura Obscura performs a visually dazzling electronic set projected through a camera lens obscured by plastic film, blue diameter and pink jewels. Her music consists of repeated clicking, whispers, ethereal singing and distorted slowed down vocals with drones and sliding echo tones. A slow beating electronic pulse persists while Kamura sings a dissonant melody over pinging chimes until a spectral siren washes over a funky bass line. A cloudy obscuring visuals signals the end of her set, as a shadowy vocal sshh seamlessly leads into the upbeat cascading drum from the next act MY Panda Shall Fly.
Evie Ward, The Wire, September 2020
Kamura Solo live review at Iklectik, London, UK, 02/03/2018
Geoff Leigh & Makoto Kawabata + Kamura Obscura
Atsuko Kamura aka Kamura Obscura has been a member of Japanese punk band Mizutama Slobodan and Frank Chickens, and she also did a stint co-presenting Kazuko’s Karaoke Klub on UK television in the late 1980s. Tonight, she opens her solo set with pizzicato vocalisations and wind-like sighing. These sounds are quickly looped and layers, becoming rhythmic tracks that guide her compositions.
Kamura’s various voices combine to create an indeterminate libretto in which bird song, ocean waves and white noise stand tall. Her music is structured, though it may appear improvised at first. Stealing a look at Kamura’s score reveals a list of phrases such as “Frog beat” and “ Space Head”. This list refers to samples, presets and moods that she wishes to trigger or evoke in a certain order.
Synthesised melodies shift the atmosphere from B movie horror, past new age ambient and on to playful children’s song. Her second last composition is a Macedonian Lullaby, the melody of which is fused with lyrics from Japanese cradle song. As if to emphasise the music’s playfulness, the Iklectik house cat Toni wanders into the venue and walks around stage as Kamura performs.
Ilia Rogatchevski The Wire, May 2018
Kamura Obscura "Speleology" -Kamura Obscura Live
Linear Obsessional CD/DL
UK based Japanese singer Atsuko Kamura has a career stretching back to the punk feminist combo Polka Dot Fire Brigade, whose second album was produced by Fred Frith in 1985. Recently she’s been fronting a Robert Storey-led group, releasing the haunting I Am A Kamura in 2008. But it’s just in the past three years she has realised a long held ambition to tackle solo live shows, fortified by a cocktail of digital FX and lightly sequenced keyboards.
The title of Speleology suggests underground exploration- it’s a collection of live recordings with an inquisitive and experimental feel. Around a third of it is spent reworking two new version of “Cave”, the opening song from Kamura Obscura album:”Talking Cave” feels its way gradually towards the melodic line; accompaniment is deliberately thin to leave plenty of space for vocal yoga, conducted via Kamura’s own improvised language. In conclusion “Ice Cave”, recorded at Birmingham’s Ort Cafe, expands briefly to a trio with Natalie Mason and Storey, recreating the piano and bird calls of the song’s original. Elsewhere “Yukimi No Enn”-the title refers to moon -watching ceremonies-flirts again with melody over a keyboard pulse, the voice now coloured by a surprisingly lovely smear of Auto-Tune. The vocal phrasing is confident and the range wide, a reminder that Kamura underpins her experiments with considerable technique.
Kamura steps away from her abstract language only for “Fukushima Mutation”, wondering aloud if Japanese bodies are evolving defences against radiation. The whimsical tone masks Kamura’s fierce engagement with post-Fukushima Japanese protest. “Nina Bargain” lays down a brash keyboard riff under mercurial changes of mood and dives into silence, out of which a completely different piece slowly builds. If there’s theatrical Hagen here, it’s no more than a dash. Kamura’s aim is musical intimacy and mystery and Speleology locates gems down the pothole.
Clive Bell, The Wire, Feb. 2017
Live review at The Edge 07/10/2016
Next to perform are Kamura Obscura, a three-piece band comprising a violinist (Natalie Mason, who is part of the team who run Club Integral), a guitarist (Robert Story) and a singer (Atsuko Kamura) who also plays keyboard. The first played, ‘Chapel of Atheist’, is a traditional Japanese song with haunting falsetto, both guitarist and violinist picking at their strings to create a stark background to
the singing. The second song, ‘Melting’, takes on a political edge, dealing with the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear reactor in 2011; the band donning headlights and sparkly comic glasses, declaring “we are safe now!” The song mirrors the outfits, comic yet dark, lyrics searing with intent, “The leader said we won’t be affected, the TV said the same”, the instruments scream with anger whilst the singing’s high pitch brakes down back into deep growls.
Birmingham Review, Oct. 2016
I Am A Kamura album
I Am A Kamura. Divine CD Atsuko Kamura's debut solo album is one of this year's most remarkable collection of songs, worthy to stand alongside Margareth Kammerer and Christoff Kurzmann's The Magic ID Project. More Irving Berlin than Berlin digital angst, however, I Am A Kamura are all about live playing and uncanny vocal delicacy. Are we in a hotel bar in 1930s downtown Fukuoka, Kamura's hometown in Japan? Or are those harps and strings from Wong Kar-Wai's heady 2046-style fantasies? In fact Kamura's music could only have been made right now and in London, for all its Japanese lyrics and faux-oriental touches over Latin rhythms. Kamura's pedigree is in Tokyo punk and Frank Chickens, while her collaborators hail from Kenny Process Team, Homelife and the UK Improv scene. Guitarist/producer Robert Storey has a lengthy track record of songwriting with Bing Selfish and the endlessly shapeshifting Murphies. Two of these songs are Chinese and Japanese traditional, while one ("La Chaviata") appears to owe something to Verdi, but the atmosphere of oriental daydream is well sustained throughout. "Jizo" sets out its trotting-horse beat, only to abandon drums for an intimate guitar breakdown. Much of the album's magic is like this - achieving power by leaving things out. Likewise the vocal performances, which are both spontaneous and understated. The impression is of chanteuse muscle being gently reined in. Most mysterious is "Aya San", where the isolated voice encounters Sylvia Hallett's violin and the full group entry is held back for several minutes. What a haunting piece of work this is - in a way it sounds as though it's been around for years. Beware; melodies like "Tenshi" and "Whisper" can lodge in the brain and refuse to budge.
Clive Bell, The Wire, November 2008