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Sunday 1 October 2023

Forty Minutes Of AR Kane

AR Kane formed after Rudy Tambala and Alex Ayuli saw Cocteau Twins on TV in 1985. Their albums 69 (1988) and i (1989) were much beloved by the late 80s music press, the blend of guitar pedal noise, dub and electronic dance pop hitting the mark with writers and fans as the late 80s music scene found common ground between guitar bands and dance music. The otherworldly nature of the Cocteau Twins music, the swirl of FX is evident in their music, the pair playing guitars and singing, with drums provided by tape and machines. Initially they were lumped in with the feedback indie of The Jesus And Mary Chain. Rudy commented that they'd never heard The Mary Chain and were more inspired by Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, Arthur Russell and Lee Scratch Perry along with the Cocteaus (whose record label, 4AD, they were released their first record on). 

The AR Kane albums have been re- issued recently, a box set on Rocket Girl called ARKive containing 69, i and the EP Up Home as well as badges, art prints and a t- shirt. Rudy and Alex played in London in the summer. Their music is hugely influential if less widely heard than some of their contemporaries. Their feedback drenched, FX pedal guitar noise played a huge part in forming the early 90s shoegaze sound and their electronic dance- pop songs had a big impact on many including Andrew Weatherall (who covered A Love From Outer Space and named a long running mobile club night after the song). When they were put into a studio with Colourbox by 4AD boss Ivo Watts- Russell they created Pump Up The Volume, the M|A|R|R|S single that topped the charts and brought sampling to the masses and while the A-side was mainly Colourbox the B-side Anitina (The First Time I See She Dance) was mainly AR Kane. On 69 they created a sonic blueprint, blending dub, noise, jazz and pop. With Up Home! they'd brought electronic music and acid house into the sound. Just a year later 69 came out, a double album containing a headspinning rush of songs and sounds, some of them not much more than dream sketches, some of them woozy, off kilter pop, with bursts of jazz, drones and dub, bongos, percussion and cello, lullabies over ocean sized soundscapes. 

AR Kane described their music as dream pop, a phrase which has become a shorthand for 21st century guitar music, heavily reverbed chords strummed very slowly with breathy vocals. For Rudy Tambala dream pop was more about the 'dream mythology...and lucid dreaming. We both used to practice it... go into a semi- hypnotic trance just before falling asleep.... being awake inside a dream... What would happen was that we’d hear music in our dreams and wake ourselves up to write down melodies, lyrics or even just the atmosphere that we wanted to capture. Our music was literally dream pop'. 

The mix here switches between the different elements of AR Kane's sound, the wall of guitar FX and feedback, sweetly sung and murmured vocals, dub basslines and breakbeats and synths. 

Forty Minutes Of AR Kane

  • Snow Joke
  • Baby Milk Snatcher
  • Sugarwings
  • A Love From Outer Space 
  • Miles Apart
  • Up
  • Crack Up (Space Mix)
  • Spermwhale Trip Over
  • Anitina (The First Time See She Dance)

Snow Joke, Miles Apart and Sugarwings are all from i, their 1989 album which came out on One Little Indian. A Love From Outer Space, delirious electronic pop, comes from the album too. 

Baby Milk Snatcher was a 1988 single for Rough Trade and then the lead song on the Up Home! EP, a longer version. Up was on the same EP, one of their finest moments. 

Crack Up was a 1990 single on Rough Trade. The Space Mix came out on a Rem'i'xes EP, remixed by Cocteau Robin Guthrie. 

Spermwhale Trip Over is from 69, a song which seemed to give birth to much of the shoegaze band's sound- My Bloody Valentine must have had a copy close by when they recorded Slow. Rudy has described 69 as 'a gem. We wanted to go as far out as we could, and in doing so we discovered the point where it stops being music'. The re- release of the albums in the ARKive box and recent return to live gigs is something to be welcomed. I hope they might make a trip up north at some point soon. 

Anitina (The First Time See She Dance) is the b-side to Pump Up The Volume by M|A|R|R|S, the AR Kane and Cooirbox collaboration. The two groups found out quickly that they weren't going to work together well, their outlook and working methods wildly different. Pump Up The Volume is largely Colourbox with some AR Kane guitar parts added in and the scratch mix DJ skills of CJ Mackintosh and Dave Dorrell. Anitina is predominantly AR Kane with some Colourbox drum machine programming and FX. Post- single disagreements meant that M|AR|R|S was a one off. 


Walter said...

It's funny. I listened to 69 yesterday and thought about writing about it the next days. Congratulation for doing this great job, Adam.

Swiss Adam said...

Thanks Walter. Interested to see what you say about them.