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23 September 2010

Camberwell Now - 'The Ghost Trade' (Ink)

This is the second time I've journeyed through these six songs in the past week (see the Glass Mastered Cinderblock review of the discography CD) but I ain't complaining. I love owning this on vinyl even though the sound gets noticeably muffled towards the end of each side -- my turntable suddenly out of alignment or a bad mastering job? I rarely prefer the sound of a CD but this might be one case where the LP fails. It's most audible in 'Wheat Futures', where the sibilance of Hayward's croaking is a bit too piercing. I thought vinyl was supposed to have better low-end? Maybe Ink Records didn't have much of a budget for a mastering engineer. Actually the real reason is that I tend to jump around to the faster, more aggressive parts of this album, and when I have the turntable going, it skips when I hit the floor. What haven't I already said? Did I rave about the kazoo part in 'The Ghost Trade'? This is one part where the dirty vinyl sound is preferable, cause who doesn't like a fuzzy kazoo? There's some tape manipulations transitioning from the kazoo breakdown into the xylophone coda and it's just the right amount of damage to lay over a tune without totally disrupting the flow. But it all comes back to 'Working Nights', where the bassline is like a woodpecker beating against a shopping mall made of granite. The power of the songwriting here is the way the speeds shift; Camberwell Now mastered this "suddenly, we'll shift from warp speed to half-speed" thing, in a way that This Heat never managed. But the art-rocker in me loves everything, as there's traces of the magnificent 70s all over this mid-80s masterpiece. The harmonised voices in 'Sitcom' are a good example of this. Camberwell Now are like "secret" prog-rock -- they took things forward somehow and it's marvelously accessible. I've grown accustomed to 'Greenfingers' following on my All's Well CD, so when 'The Ghost Trade' ends with a melting, shimmering wall of keyboard clouds and some faint murmurs of free improv underneath, it feels like a million years of silence are about to begin. But that's why it's nice to have on vinyl, cause you can flip it over!

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