Camera Obscura (Darkened Chamber) is the name of an experimental avant-garde music album recorded and released by Nico in 1985. It was produced by John Cale, marking their first studio collaboration since The End in 1974. It was Nico's final studio album before her death three years later.
Nico's vocal style is somewhat different from her prior records, with some songs bearing similarities to Dead Can Dance's Lisa Gerrard. The jazz standard "My Funny Valentine", by contrast, has a more standard legato vocal style, despite her very deep contralto. Many of the tracks offer a refined version of the new wave gothic rock of her previous album, Drama in Exile. The album is dedicated to her then manager, Alan Wise.
Sonically, the album follows on from Drama of Exile in that Nico's core songs are given full band arrangements. Whereas Drama of Exile carried a strong North African influence and exotic, New Wave-inspired instrumentation, Camera Obscura makes use of synths and drum programming.
The album's oldest composition, "König," was originally recorded for Desertshore and re-recorded some fifteen years later for Camera Obscura. A version was included in the Philippe Garrel fim, La Cicatrice Intérieure (1972). John Cale reportedly wanted to produce the song with a more percussive, synth-based arrangement in keeping with the rest of the material, but Nico insisted it should be kept as a solo harmonium piece.
Another early song re-imagined for the recording sessions was "Tananore," which Nico had performed at a Cale concert in Marseille on April 12, 1975 and kept in her set ever since. Nico had incorporated "My Funny Valentine" into her set since February 1982. "My Heart Is Empty" and "Fearfully in Danger," meanwhile, had been set mainstays since her Library Theatre appearance in Manchester on June 16, 1983.
Nico performed songs from Camera Obscura up until her death, although there are no known performances of opening instrumental "Camera Obscura" or the song "Into the Arena."
This is truly one of my favourite albums by Nico. Few have had the ability to turn melancholy into pure art.
01. Camera obscura
03. Win a few
04. My funny Valentine
05. Das lied von einsanen madchens
06. Fearfully in danger
07. My heart is empty
08. Into the arena