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The Camberwell Now biography
After THIS HEAT broke up in 1982 Gareth Williams departed for India to study music and dance, and Charles Bullen recorded sporadically but concentrated on work as a sound engineer. Charles Hayward formed THE CAMBERWELL NOW with Trefor Goronwy, who had been part of the short lived touring 4 piece version of THIS HEAT, and tape manipulator Steven Rickard. The band continued to work in Cold Storage, THIS HEAT 's studio, and released an album and two 12" singles from 1983 - 1986.

Charles Bullen appeared as a guest on their first 12" single, 'Meridian'. There was a slightly tentative feel to the music, as though the band had yet to establish its identity, but it contains some strong material. Their solitary album, 'The Ghost Trade', came out in 1985 and was a superb piece of work that established THE CAMBERWELL NOW as a musical force to be reckoned with. Their final release, 'Greenfingers', was another 12" single that included an old THIS HEAT song. On all of their releases there is a sense of space that was often lackig in the sometimes claustrophobic recordings of THIS HEAT. Hayward and Goronwy coalesced into a phenomenal rhythm section, and the recordings gave them plenty of room to flex their musical muscles. Steven Rickard's tape work was innovative - he designed a keyboard set up to trigger the recordings, effectively creating an analogue sampler. The lyrics were explicitly political, something Hayward sees as contributing to the band's limited commercial success.

They are sometimes referred to as a continuation of THIS HEAT, but this is an over simplification; the relationship is more like that of MATCHING MOLE to SOFT MACHINE, or ART BEARS to HENRY COW. THE CAMBERWELL NOW created a sound and identity of their own, and made a crucial but rather overlooked contribution to the RIO genre in the 1980s. 'All's Well', a CD containing nearly all of their officially released material, was released in 1992 and remains in print.

Why this artist must be listed in :
The Camberwell Now was one of the most important RIO bands of the 1980s.

Meridian (12" single, 1983)
The Ghost Trade (1986)
Green Fingers (12" single, 1987)
All's Well (Compilation, 1992)

THE CAMBERWELL NOW Videos (YouTube and more)

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THE CAMBERWELL NOW top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.51 | 26 ratings
The Ghost Trade

THE CAMBERWELL NOW Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

THE CAMBERWELL NOW Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

THE CAMBERWELL NOW Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.57 | 16 ratings
All's Well

THE CAMBERWELL NOW Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.79 | 5 ratings
3.25 | 4 ratings


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Ghost Trade by CAMBERWELL NOW, THE album cover Studio Album, 1986
4.51 | 26 ratings

The Ghost Trade
The Camberwell Now RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Lewian
Prog Reviewer

5 stars The Ghost Trade is classified as "avant-prog" here; actually it comes with a good dose of new wave/post punk straightness and seems to me quite unique in mixing these elements with experimental prog.

I heard this for the first time when it was pretty new, and it caught me from the very first moment. Working Nights starts the album off fast fast fast. I'm not sure whether I ever came across a more rousing and exciting start on any album. Charles Hayward on drums and Trefor Goronwy on bass/guitar of This Heat drive each other to peak performances and in the background keyboards and recordings give the sound depth.

This album has speed and sharpness, dizzy bass- and drumwork that at times beggars belief, sudden speed changes, taste and consistency, the very original dry and very well fitting voice of Charles Hayward, interesting lyrics on the state of society, experimental sound design and even some good melodies. The sound is very lean and uncluttered.

Sitcom picks up where Working Nights ended in a very organic way. It tries out different speeds, some of them very pushy, until toward the end it goes into something more relaxed with some round and voluminous keyboard sound.

Wheat Futures is a rather different kind of landscape, slower, stronger in keyboards and sounds with very little drums and bass that rise only toward the end. It has some folk elements and a haunting, conjuring melody.

In Speculative Fiction, the exciting rhythm section is back with very straight drums and a plainly impossible bass part. Could you believe a human being played this? (Actually, if I'm honest, I believe not all of this is a single bass track, but it's the impression that counts.) Very physical and with its hymn-like melody even very catchy.

Green Lantern showcases all the elements that make this album special once more, the tempo changes, the tasteful sound experiments, the sharp rhythm section. It is to my taste the least spectacular track on this album, which is quite something to say because on its own it's a very good and original piece of music.

The title track The Ghost Trade starts slower again and is more sound and voice-driven than the majority of songs on the album. The final of the song turns the music around once more, into a relaxed and spacey place. I'd like to have the words to describe the sounds used here, but I can't; I just mention once more that the sound design is another trump of this album. This also has the to me most interesting lyrics.

In the forum I just posted a top 200 list of albums on which I ranked this among my top 20, which obviously is pretty good, but listening to it again for reviewing I realise once more that this is just spectacular beyond belief and could well be a top 5 of all times album.

I think that the album is no longer available, but is included in full on the collection "All's Well"; the rest there is interesting, too, but not quite as top notch as this.

 Meridian by CAMBERWELL NOW, THE album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1983
3.79 | 5 ratings

The Camberwell Now RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by mixmastermorris

4 stars A very interesting debut by this band formed by Charles Hayward after the disintegration of This Heat. All the tracks have an aquatic theme and minimal arrangements, with the addition of Haywards voice you can't help but be reminded of Wyatt's 'Rock Bottom' Trade Winds is just a bed of ambient cymbals. Pearl Divers has a haunting tune .... Side two is more upbeat and hints at the Can-like sound they were to develop live, with experimental and found sounds incorporated alongside the driving rhythms. Splash is a great instrumental track, with water sounds and a complex melody played on the Autoharp, which they were to rework later. If you are a Charles Hayward fan you need this record, which is sadly very difficult to find.
 All's Well by CAMBERWELL NOW, THE album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1992
4.57 | 16 ratings

All's Well
The Camberwell Now RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Syzygy
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars All's Well is an excellent compilation which gathers together nearly everything officially released by The Camberwell Now during their existence from 1983 to 1987 - two 12" singles, an album and stand alone tracks which appeared on compilations - in chronological order. Their music was informed by a strong sense of place (Camberwell is a largely working class area of South London) and time; their lyrics, especially on the Ghost Trade, were highly critical of Mrs Thatcher's Britain.

The first four tracks come from the debut 12" single, Meridian. One track, a brief instrumental called Trade Winds, is not included here, presumably so that everything could fit onto a single CD. The first three songs sound more like Hayward solo than a group effort; he has the sole writing credit, and there is a minimal feel to the arrangements. The common theme is water, a recurring motif in Hayward's lyrics. Cutty Sark opens the proceedings, a song about the famous sailing vessel now moored on the river Thames near Camberwell. The arrangement is simple; a melodica refrain, cymbal and vocal by Hayward with bass and tambourine by ex This Heat colleague Charles Bullen, and the lyrics are about the ship's past as a vessel for trade with outposts of the British empire. Pearl Divers maintains the theme and mood, with keyboards and minimal percussion backing another mournful vocal. Dunkirk Spirit sees the entry of the full drum kit, played with a featherlight jazzman's touch, and an extended scat vocal introduction. Throughout these three tracks there is a feel very similar to Robert Wyatt circa Rock Bottom, and the lyrics reflect the band's left wing political views in an intelligent, understated manner. Resplash is a lengthy instrumental that reworks Splash, the closing track on the original 12" single and which gives the first full flavour of the band; Trefor Goronwy plays some nimble bass and also adds some ukulele, Hayward gets busy behind the kit and adds some simple keyboard motifs and Steven Rickard's loops and manipulations add the same kind of wild card to the mix that Gareth Williams' keyboards and tapes added to This Heat.

Next up is a stand alone track, originally issued only on an obscure and long deleted cassette compilation. Daddy Needs A Throne is effectively a curtain raiser for their album; the backing of the song is played on bass and drums with Trefor Goronwy using the full range of his instrument to play both low end rhythm and high end riffs and solos. Steven Rickard's tape work adds extra textures in the breaks, but it's basically a manic vocal/bass/drums performance with some extremely tight changes of tempo and metre. The Robert Wyatt influence is a lot less noticeable here - the sound is closer to Krautrock, with echoes of Can, Neu! and Faust discernible although the the lyrics and vocals are unmistakably English.

The band's solitary full length album, The Ghost Trade, was a remarkable achievement that demonstrated just how powerful a unit The Camberwell Now had become. Hayward and Goronwy had coalesced into an unbelievably tight, focussed rhyhtm section and the songwriting had found a distinctive, unique voice of its own. There are just 6 comparatively lengthy tracks on the album, and the musicians give themselves plenty of space and scope without degenerating into pointless noodling. The first two tracks, Night Shift and Sitcom, are in the same style as Daddy Needs A Throne - voice, bass and drums carry the bulk of the arrangement, with keyboards or tapes providing simple washes of sound or background drones. Abrupt shifts of rhyhtm and tempo occur throughout, while the lyrics take critical sideswipes at Mrs Thatcher's Britain. The pace slows down with Wheat Futures, which features no drumming for its first half, followed by a lengthy and discordant coda with ritual percussion and dark keyboard figures that recall Univers Zero's more sombre moments. 80s production values are in evidence on Speculative Fiction, which has what sounds like a sequencer generated bass line and a hypnotic bass/snare drum beat, which Hayward and Goronwy play over, around, under, across and through. Portions of the lyrics are spliced together from different voices (friends and neighbours, according to the credits) and the whole thing has bizarre echoes of 80s Pink Floyd. The Green Lantern is the shortest piece on the album, and features some heavy electronic distortion - it wouldn't have sounded out of place on a Can album circa Ege Bamyesi. The album closes with the title track, which clocks in at over eleven minutes. The lyrics hark back to This Heat's mighty SPQR, while the music builds up at its own pace. The instrumental section which closes the piece is carried by a simple motif that sometimes sounds like a glockenspiel, other times like a musical box. The bass and drums weave ever stranger patterns, while a simple electronic drone holds the whole thing together. All in all, The Ghost Trade is a masterful album which repays repeated and careful listening - an essential piece of 80s RIO.

A couple of significant changes had taken place by the time of Green Fingers, their final recording. The line up was augmented by Maria Lamburn on reeds and viola, and for the first time they were not recording in Cold Storage, the studio established by This Heat ten years previously. The result was something of a mixed success; the title track, apparently an old This Heat song, is a superb piece with extremely powerful bass and drums and some excellent jazzy interjections from Lamburn on soprano sax. The mood is maintained on The Mystery of The Fence, which moves into slightly more discordant territory and which has an extremely busy arrangement. Know How features Goronwy's only lyrical contribution to the Camberwell Now, and is a mournful, oddly inconclusive piece followed by a brief, sombre instrumental. For the first time since the songs which opened Meridian there is a note of uncertainty in evidence, and like the debut 12" single Greenfingers is good but rather patchy.

The Camberwell Now experienced little commercial success in their lifetime, which is odd given the extremely high standard of their output. Their bass/drum/vocal excursions may well ahve been a formative influence on Ruins - Yoshida Tatsuya is a big fan of Hayward's, and Cutty Sark was to remain in Hayward's solo live set. Comparisons with This Heat are inevitable, but they were emphatically not This Heat part 2; this was a band with its own sound and agenda and which developed into an entity as disticnct from its parent band as Art Bears was from Henry Cow or Matching Mole from Soft Machine. On the Ghost Trade they equalled This Heat's considerable achievements with their own, and on their other releases they explored other ideas and styles with varying degrees of success, some of which would inform Charles Hayward's solo career. All's Well is an excellent collection even though not quite complete, and is best listened to in segments corresponding to the original releases. Strongly recommeneded.

Thanks to syzygy for the artist addition.

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