Aztec Camera: High Land, Hard Rain (Rough Trade 47)

Height of fashion

WHERE OTHER practitioners of ‘soft’ rock are content to be mellow, Aztec Camara are passionately exact. Tossed by great emotion, by all the confusions of love, Aztec Camera strive to capture and contain their delights and torments.

Aztec Camera have the edge missing from the work of contemporaries like Ben Watt and The Gist. The edge comes from the tension in Roddy’s songs between great feeling and careful craft. Roddy holds emotions in check in order to suggest their force. It is not enough merely to be quiet.

Frame’s miniatures are sculpted to describe their subjects to perfection. This, Aztec Camera’s debut album, has been four years in the making and is anything but careless. For years AC have searched for a production that could create a balanced tension between the delicacy of Frame’s melodies and their need for a firm beat. Here, they’ve found it. At last songs like ‘We Could Send Letters’ have the drama they deserve. For the first time, all the moods in Frame’s songs are shown in their full colours. The results are, simply, gorgeous.

Frame may include sixties ‘poets’ like Paul Simon amongst his mentors but he is no throwback to that period. Unlike them, Frame is a pop writer whose songs are essentially teenage, capturing the hesitancies and rushes of feeling of those first loves. So songs like ‘Walk Out To Winter’ rush with a sense of a journey begun, Roddy’s craft holds it in check and so describes the longing perfectly.

10 songs then, none of them a miss. Frame’s guitar work is superb throughout, if his voice occasionally lacks the character of the songs.

Aztec Camera make you realise how slapdash are Roddy’s contemporaries. These songs trace the twists and turns of moods that matter. + + + +

© Mark CooperRecord Mirror, 9 April 1983

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