Great lost bands: A.R.Kane

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It's often hyperbole to suggest a band is ahead of their time, but in the case of A.R.Kane I think it's a fair comment. Essentially a duo comprising of Alex Ayuli and Rudi Tambala, they were most active between 1986 and 1990 when they released a string of EPs on One Little Indian and 4AD plus two highly regarded albums on Rough Trade. In that short burst of activity they managed to touch on shoegaze, trip hop, ambient dub and post-rock before anyone knew what those things were.
Early releases such as debut single "When You're Sad" were often filed under an inadequate "black Jesus and Mary Chain" tag, but A.R. Kane had much wider influences behind their work.
When You're Sad

It's true that JAMC and the Cocteau Twins had a major effect on them, but, speaking personally, A.R.Kane's music made me want to check out Sun Ra and 'Bitches Brew' by Miles Davis for a start.
They also had a notorious alter-ego in the guise of M/A/R/R/S, which was a collaboration between them and Colourbox, CJ Mackintosh and DJ Dave Dorrell, and of course had a gigantic hit in 1987 with 'Pump Up The Volume'. This was the first UK number one on a totally independent label (4AD) and a major source of funding for future, more experimental activities. The EP 'Lollita' was their first classic release; it featured three of their best songs - the title track, as well as 'Sadomasocism is a Must' and 'The Butterfly Collector', and showed their edginess as an uncompromising noise band with jarring psycho-sexual themes, a lyrical interest that would continue over the next few records.

All of the EPs are worth checking out, and they paved the way for their extraordinary debut album "sixty-nine" (1988). On the EPs they had sounded like an indie-guitar band with some experimental ideas, but with sixty-nine they threw jazz and dance music into the mix, as well as exploring both extremes of ambient music. Some times it was pretty and dreamy, other times it was edgy and violent. The radical mix of styles on the album is illustrated by its most popular track, Baby Milk Snatcher, with its mix of dub reggae and blissed-out noise. The title is a deliberate reference to Thatcher, but it isn't a jarring political song. It also fits "sixty-nine"s obsession with breasts, as evidenced on the inner sleeve art, and in particular the mother and body bond, as heard on the unsettling 'The Madonna Is With Child.'
Baby Milk Snatcher

The follow-up album "i" was a complete curveball. 26 tracks, ten of which are short noise-based interludes, it was almost too much of a mix of genres for some. Some of it is complex, multi-layered pop such as lead track 'A Love From Outer Psace' and the single 'Pop', some of it is discordant and difficult, and the closing track 'Catch my Drift' manages to mix heavy dub with Pavarotti.

A Love From Outer Space

It was a hard act to follow and they never tried to top it. They signed with David Byrne's Luaka Bop label but this only yielded a compilation of previously released material called 'Americana'. The only new material to come out was a 1994 album called 'New Clear Child' which received a very tepid reaction from fans and critics alike.
The band had nurtured some new talent through their own H.ark label (Belfast bands Papa Sprain and Butterfly Child released 2 EPs each on it) and Rudi Tambala went on to record under the name Sufi, and with Alison Shaw of Cranes as In Rain. Alex Ayuli had a career in advertising prior to A.R. Kane (with TBWA amongst others) and became a museum curator in the US afterwards. I haven't known them to make any music together since 1994.

previous Great Lost Bands
No. 4: Loop
No. 3: Bongwater
No. 2: Prolapse
No. 1: Bowery Electric

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