Following the dissolution of This Heat in the early 1980s, drummer Charles Hayward and bassist Trefor Goronwy recruited the group's sound technician, Stephan Rickard, for a new, more song-oriented band. Camberwell Now subverted the standard rock trio format by delegating the role of electric guitar to Rickard's "tape switchboard," lending the band's music textural depth and spatial complexity.
Starting off with the Syd Barrett-esque "Cutty Sark," the four songs from 1984's Meridian EP lack the unstoppable drive that would mark Camberwell Now's future work, though "Spirit of Dunkirk" makes a memorable hook out of a nasally whine.
There's a marked difference between Meridian and Camberwell Now's only LP, The Ghost Trade (1986), a shot of adrenaline that is foreshadowed in the punkish cassette-only compilation track "Daddy Needs a Throne." With atmospheric synths and tape loops filling the guitar's role, and melodies that are haunting but frequently elusive, the forward momentum throughout The Ghost Trade is sustained by Hayward's propulsive drumming and Goronwy's dexterous, multilayered bass playing.
Rickard's tape work is at turns ethereal and unsettling, and it allows the band to intermingle British folk and 20th century experimental music with great success. In fact, when the powerhouse rhythm section settles down, the hypnotic and eerie loops keep up the pace, preventing exploratory tracks like "Wheat Futures" from becoming too ponderous.The Ghost Trade is a superb summation of what makes the Canterbury-sprouted family tree such a fascinating world, worth tracing to the present-day practitioners of Rock in Opposition.
All's well that ends well, and Camberwell Now's contribution to music ends very well: The Greenfingers EP comprises the band's catchiest work ("Know How" is, to use a well-worn cliché, Beatle-esque) and the listener is left wanting more. (Actually, there is more: "For Those in Peril on the Sea," an art installation soundtrack that was featured on a Sub Rosa compilation, is not included on All's Well.)
Ad Hoc has cleaned up Camberwell Now's recordings for this collection, demystifying the original vinyl releases and thus diluting their power to some extent. Even so, All's Well. is a thought-provoking document of 1980s post-punk Britain, as well as a fitful epilogue to the work of This Heat.
Personnel: Charles Hayward: vocals, drums, keyboards; Trefor Goronwy: bass, guitar, keyboards, percussion; Stephen Rickard: tape switchboard, loops.