Just recently, the prestigious Primavera Sound Festival held in Spain announced their line-up of various bands from various nations of various acclaim and commercial standing. Among these bands were high flyers like LCD Soundsystem and Tame Impala, audience and critical favourites such as Beach House and PJ Harvey and even classic outfits much like Sigur Ros and rapper Pusha T. But… Deep within the line-up, covered by those artists mentioned before, was an announcement worthy of a festival itself… Those who saw said announcement would have squinted their eyes at the writing toward the bottom of the poster and gazed upon a musical reunion of the wildest and most influential power, responsible for the formation and sound of many bands at the top of the poster. What they saw was the name of legendary dream pop/alternative band A.R Kane, which in turn is much more symbolic than just a name… It is a rebirth and continuation of a band who have influenced many, carved out their own unique and brilliant sound and forged a genre that would stand on in time, worn by many bands both successful and amateur. A.R Kane are back, playing not only Primavera but more shows with rumoured recording also in the process.
A.R Kane began in East London in the musical climate of 1986… A year when such musical ‘talent’ as ‘Diana Ross’, ‘George Michael’ and ‘The Communards’ were topping the charts and standing atop the mainstream. This climate was an important element of what A.R Kane would become; a form and technique crafted as a stylistic antithesis to the distant and manufactured power pop that came to define the generation of the 1980’s… And subsequently forged a brilliant underground presence of experimental and groundbreaking musicianship. And somewhere in the underground of London, A.R Kane were formed by Rudy Tambala and Alex Ayuli (the reformed lineup also includes Andy Taylor) who used a vast array of genres, mixed together, to create their own unique sound (in a similar, but still different way than dreampop friends The Veldt). Understandably their initial sound could not be classified, and this fact within itself should be self-explanatory as to how influential the band have been and still are, and it was not until later on in the musical world that this genre would be identified and named as dreampop.
Soon after being contacted to record a demo, A.R. Kane released a debut single on the indie label One Little Indian, whose origins were tangled in the genre of anarchist-punk bands. This single lead to an EP release and their signing to one of the most important record labels in the history of modern music; 4AD, who over time have released music from such influential and brilliant artists as The Breeders and the Cocteau Twins. The bands residency on the label was of an important and pivotal snapshot of music in that particular period as it signed artists who could land mainstream hits and commercial success while simultaneously signing the bands who dwelled in the deepest cellars of the underground with cult followings and little to no mainstream exposure. A.R Kane would release the Lollita 12” on 4AD with the legendary ‘Robin Guthrie’ of the aforementioned band of the greatest influential standards, the ‘Cocteau Twins’ producing. In the same period the band collaborated with label friends ‘Colourbox’, whose electronic and reggae-influenced musical output set them about from the other dreampop and post-punk bands that dwelt under the 4AD label, to form a side project known as ‘MARRS’. The side-project was in a similar vein as that of ‘Daft Punk’s’ side-project known as ‘Stardust’ (whom are most famous for their one and only release, ‘Music Sounds Better With You’) in that the group only released one song, aptly named for its house and electronic sound, ‘Pump Up The Volume’. The track was an international hit and utilized sample based music and beats that would be later used as the base formula of the UK wave of Acid House and club based Dance music that drowned out other genres in the 90’s musical landscape. It was not only a gigantic commercial and critical success (that was also nominated for a Grammy) but it was also, and still remains to be, the greatest commercial hit ever released on 4AD. However, as many side projects do, the band refused to release another song and ‘MARRS’ disbanded.
A.R Kane would go on to release their debut album 69 on Rough Trade Records in 1988. The album was critically acclaimed and still holds an almost 5/5 rating on the internationally recognized Allmusic.com who proclaimed it as a classic and a hallmark in the genre of shoegaze. The album would feature many of the bands most well-known and critically acclaimed songs, such as ‘Suicide Kiss’ and ‘The Madonna is with Child’. Even a current listen to the album reveals the layering and the early crafting of genres like Trip-Hop and Chillwave… And it was released long before bands and artists were releasing music under those titles. The album sounds like Tricky and Memoryhouse long before those artists had even formed. Although the album fared well on Indie charts, the albums sales were moderate; this may be due to the bands pioneering sound, which music writers struggled to categorize into one genre. In 1989 the band released their second and final full-length album ‘i’ to even greater critical acclaim. Mixing reggae, noise, trance and a post-rock musical feeling together, the albums sound and scope was spread over an enormous 26 tracks. Again though, the album was released to moderate sales figures. As the album gained critically acclaim, the band and critics alike began referring to A.R. Kane as ‘dreampop’, a title that would stay as strong as concrete through the realm of modern music.
In 1989 Rough Trade would also release the ‘Pop EP’, before A.R Kane would go on a hiatus throughout the early 90’s. While taking a break, Rough Trade Records went bankrupt and A.R Kane were without a record label to return to. Saved by legendary dance and new wave musician and producer David Byrne, the bands US retrospective compilation was released on Byrne’s Luaka Bop record label; entitled Americana. Shortly after, A.R Kane reunited and released the hard-to-find ‘New Clear Child’ before disbanding in 1994; a year when Britpop and the heavy sludge of grunge music filtered its way through the musical mainstream and landscape.
A.R. Kane’s influence and touch on music was, and continues to be, so very deep and influential that if it weren’t for them and their ingenuity we would not be listening to bands such as Slowdive, Seefeel and Deerhunter. They’re creative influence stretches even further than that though; it stretches to very genres themselves. Their underratedness is that of a criminal stature and the fact that they have never achieved the mainstream success they deserve is a confusing prospect to say the least. Their reformation is greeted with united praise from both critics and fans alike and we may all assume that the new music will be as colorful, creative and influential as the previous outings.
The kings of dreampop have officially returned… And retaken the seat back on their throne.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
C. Phillips is a writer and above all, a music lover, who seeks to gain experience through writing and listening. He is also an avid film viewer and art and literature junkie who enjoys creative writing. His most recent published work was featured on the Australian heavy music blog, I Probably Hate Your Band.