Promotional image of A.R. Kane
|Origin||East London, England|
|Genres||Dream pop, experimental pop|
|Labels||Rough Trade, 4AD, One Little Indian, Luaka Bop/Sire|
|Associated acts||MARRS, Sufi, MusicOne, Alex!|
|Past members||Alex Ayuli
A.R. Kane (sometimes AR Kane or A.R.Kane) were a British musical duo consisting of Alex Ayuli and Rudy Tambala. Formed in 1986, they topped the UK independent charts with their albums 69 (1988) and "i" (1989) in addition to releasing the surprise dance hit "Pump Up the Volume" in 1987 as part of the one-off collaboration MARRS. After an early-'90s hiatus, they released their third album New Clear Child in 1994 and subsequently broke up.
The duo pioneered an eclectic style that would become known as dream pop, drawing on diverse sources such as dub, house, psychedelia, and free jazz. Though their work has fallen into relative obscurity in subsequent years, they have been characterized by critics as among the most innovative and underrated groups of their era. In 2012, One Little Indian released Complete Singles Collection, which compiled the group's single and EP releases.
Ayuli and Tambala first met as school children in an East London primary school. Ayuli is of Nigerian descent, while Tambala was born to a Malawian father and English mother. Both were involved in formative and culturally diverse music communities as adolescents. In 1983, Ayuli became an advertising copywriter, one of few black creatives working in the London ad business. The roots of A.R. Kane lay in a joke: at a party in 1986, Tambala was asked how he and Ayuli knew each other; he lied that the two played together in a band, going on to describe their sound as "a bit Velvet Underground, a bit Cocteau Twins, a bit Miles Davis, a bit Joni Mitchell." A week later, the two were contacted to record a demo on the strength of Tambala's fabrication.
In 1986, A.R. Kane released their debut single "When You're Sad" on One Little Indian. The duo were initially grouped with other "noise pop" acts, and were hailed in the press as "the black Jesus and Mary Chain", despite claiming to have never heard the work of that band. The next year the group signed to 4AD to release the follow-up 1987 EP Lollita, which was produced by Robin Guthrie of Cocteau Twins and saw the duo melding dub production, guitar feedback, free jazz and studio experimentation. While at 4AD, label chief Ivo Watts-Russell suggested that Ayuli and Tambala team with roster mates Colourbox, champion mixer Chris "C.J." Mackintosh, and London DJ Dave Dorrell to record a one-off single. Dubbing the collaboration M/A/R/R/S, the resulting single, "Pump Up the Volume" was a breakthrough effort heralding sampling's gradual absorption from hip-hop into dance music and ultimately the pop mainstream, reaching number 1 on the UK Singles Chart in September 1987.
A.R. Kane followed with their highly anticipated debut album, 69 (1988), which topped the independent charts and received rave critical reviews from the UK music press. Writing for Melody Maker, critic Simon Reynolds described 69 as "the outstanding record of '88." A.R Kane's next release was 1989's Love-Sick EP, followed later that year by their second studio album, "i", in which they engaged more overtly with pop, dance and electronic styles. The duo, dismissive of the wildly disparate attempts by journalists to categorize their unique sound, eventually began referring to their music as "dreampop"; the term was widely adopted by music critics thereafter. Like its predecessor, "i" was released to moderate sales figures. Also in 1989, Rough Trade released the Pop EP.
In the early 1990s, the band went on hiatus. During this time, Ayuli and Tambala founded the label H.ark and released EPs by acts such as Papa Sprain and Butterfly Child. Rough Trade went bankrupt in 1991. In 1992, David Byrne's record label, Luaka Bop, released a 15-song US retrospective of the band's work, titled Americana. Greg Kot of The Chicago Times described the compilation as "a chronicle of sonic innovation in which the boundary between melody and noise, pop and the avant-garde, is blurred continually." The duo ended their hiatus thereafter to record a follow-up album, New Clear Child (1994), and then dissolved following its release.
Since the dissolution of A.R. Kane, Tambala has made ambient- and dub-based music with his sister Maggie under the alias Sufi and released the 1995 album Life's Rising on Caroline Records. Tambala serves as head of new media for Ministry of Sound, and previously worked for Virgin Digital in non-musical roles. He currently records as MusicOne. Ayuli was known to be a museum curator in the US. He put out releases under the name Alex!. In 2006, Ayuli contributed vocals to two tracks ("Soulsong" and "Passage") on the album Primario by the Static Discos artist Fax, and also appeared on Fax's album Zig Zag. Ayuli appeared in Beautiful Noise, a documentary on the shoegazing music scene of the 1990s
A.R. Kane's first two albums were reissued in the US by One Little Indian in 2004, and New Clear Child was reissued by 3rd Stone in 2000. Complete Singles Collection, a compilation of the group's EPs and singles, was released in 2012.
In 2015, it was announced by Tambala that a quasi-reformation of A.R. Kane, bringing together new and old collaborators, would be taking place that year under the name #A.R.Kane and without the involvement of Ayuli.
Legacy and influence
Critic Jason Ankeny described A.R. Kane as "arguably the most criminally under-recognized band of their era" and an important progenitor of such musical developments as shoegaze, trip hop, ambient dub and post-rock. The Guardian has called their work "some of the 80s' most extraordinary music" and noted their influence on subsequent artists such as My Bloody Valentine. Critic Simon Reynolds tentatively referred to A.R. Kane as "the great lost group of the 80s," while pointing out that the group in fact enjoyed fervent support in certain circles of the press and surrounding music scenes during the period. The group have been recognized for breaking stereotypes about the styles accessible to black musicians at a time when most popular black artists were relegated to soul, reggae and hip hop. Pitchfork wrote that, "embracing dub, soul and paisley pop, A.R. Kane pushed boundaries most of their contemporaries completely ignored." Simon Reynolds later wrote that "A.R. Kane weren’t a rock band in the conventional sense [...they] were more like an experimental guitar pop unit who loved to push the recording studio to its limits."
- 69 (June 1988, Rough Trade; reissued 2004, One Little Indian)
- "i" (October 1989, Rough Trade; reissued 2004, One Little Indian)
- New Clear Child (February 1994, Luaka Bop; reissued 2000, 3rd Stone)
- Lollita 12" EP (July 1987, 4AD)
- Up Home! 12" EP (April 1988, Rough Trade)
- Love-Sick 12"/7" EP (October 1988, Rough Trade)
- rem"i"xes CD/12" EP (1990, Rough Trade Deutschland)
- A Love from Outer Space CD/12" EP (1992, Luaka Bop/Sire)
- "When You're Sad" 12" single (August 1986, One Little Indian)
- "Baby Milk Snatcher" 7" single (June 1988, Rough Trade)
- "Listen Up!" 12" single (October 1988, Rough Trade)
- "Pop" CD/12"/7" single (July 1989, Rough Trade)
- "Crack Up" 12" single (1990, Rough Trade France/Virgin)
- "Sea Like a Child" CD single (1994, 3rd Stone)
- Americana CD/LP (1992, Luaka Bop/Sire)
- Complete Singles Collection 2CD (2012, One Little Indian)
- The Guardian
- Simon Reynolds - A.R. Kane Interview
- Purdom, Tim. "A love from outer space: dream-pop icons A.R. Kane interviewed". Fact Magazine. Retrieved 25 August 2016.
- A.R. Kane biography at Allmusic.com
- The Quietus - A.R. Kane Interview
- The Guardian - A.R. Kane: how to invent shoe gaze without really trying
- Simon Reynolds - A.R. Kane Interview
- Reynolds, Simon (1988). "A.R. Kane: Supercolourfragilelipsticksexyallahdosehush". Melody Maker. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
- 4AD: "The studio-based outfit comprised East London duo Alex Ayuli and Rudi Tambala, who described their music as "dreampop"." A.R. Kane short info
- Simon Reynolds - A.R. Kane booklet
- Kot, Greg. "Noise Makers". The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 25 August 2016.
- Sufi's profile on MySpace
- MusicOne profile on MySpace
- Alex! profile on MySpace
- "The Fax Returns!" at Static Discos website. 26 March 2009.
- Beautiful Noise entry on imdb.com
- Fact - Cult dream-pop act A.R. Kane announce first show in 20 years
- Pitchfork - A.R Kane: 69 and "i"