This is a record which was only really meant for about 30 people. Not that only 30 copies of this record were released, or that it is so terminally obscure and willfully difficult that it by design has a marketing ceiling of an elite few. What we mean is that Camouflage Heart is such a personal document of self-realized torment, pain, and sorrow that when Cindytalk embarked on the project, it's hard to imagine that they had any delusions about the intensity of this album and the potential for these songs to alienate beyond a limited few.
At the helm of Cindytalk is transgendered vocalist Gordon Sharp, who to this day is probably still best known as one of the multitude of vocalists who appeared in This Mortal Coil. In many ways, Sharp is the masculine equal to the Cocteau Twins' Liz Fraser in delivering expressionist falsettos, trills, and banshee wails in an eerie, yet heavenly fashion. He's one of those few vocalists who can make the lyrics embody their content by shaping the words into emotionally charged sound. In fact, Sharp and Fraser had come together for a duet back during the Cocteau Twins' Peel Sessions of 1983. In his 4AD lineage, Gordon Sharp's first band was the criminally overlooked punk-glam ensemble The Freeze, where his Marc Bolan strut matched the nightmarish lyrics on top of some truly fantastic Bowie / Buzzcocks sparkplug riffs. Sharp, alongside fellow Freeze band members John Byrne and David Clancey, found shortcomings in the glam punk agenda, and sought a wholly new direction that became Cindytalk.
While undeniably dark and theatrical, Cindytalk cannot be pigeonholed as an '80s goth band, even in comparison to such off-kilter groups like The Virgin Prunes, Princess Tinymeat, or Sex Gang Children. Camouflage Heart was Cindytalk's first album and originally came out in 1984; and it's an album like those This Heat albums which is quite unique in terms of production and aesthetic. The album opens with the militant drum machine of "It's Luxury" setting the stage for an explosion from a monotone guitar riff, coated in amplifier grit, distortion, and detuned heaviness that comes across as a mix between late-'80s Skullflower and The Cure's Pornography. At this moment, Sharp's voice also erupts into the mix crooning with a downtrod beauty to this industrial dirge, spitting and swooning at the same time.
The next track "Instinct (Back To Sense)" is more of an ambient interlude with distant heartbeat rhythms, haunted with impressionist piano trickles and Sharp's siren song buried between an atmosphere of smoke and mirror. Two more explosive tracks -- "Under Glass" (featuring Mick Harvey from the Birthday Party for a disjointed stutter of abject rock) and "Memories of Skin and Snow" -- are examples of loud / quiet / loud dynamics, later embraced by the likes of Slint and Mogwai to equally profound effect. "Everybody Is Christ" is often viewed as the pinnacle of Camouflage Heart with its harsh arppegiation of electronics cast against Sharp's heavenly voice. Soon after, the album disintegrates in a cascade of delicate piano, voice, and grim drones.
As Cindytalk had suffered through the fate of several record companies going out of business (first Midnight Records then World Serpent), their work might have been forgotten had it not been for this reissue. Thankfully, that oversight can now be remedies with this long overdue reissue.