A.R.Kane – Complete Singles Collection
(One Little Indian)
By: Brett Spaceman
A recording that ultimately reviews itself – A.R.Kane’s whole singles (and EP) output gathered together in one place means a treasure trove of essential, non-album tracks for the converted or a pretty decent entry point for newcomers. Either way, it’s an exciting package and a ‘must have’ for dreampop fans.
Who were A.R.Kane?
I don’t propose to reproduce the bands bio here but essentially two guys, Alex and Rudi (A. and R.?) taking cues from the early Jesus And Mary Chain but infusing their feedback and fuzz with an almost hallucinatory dub vibe. They were clearly predicting, if not at the forefront of, the shoegazer movement and alongside bands like Talk Talk and one-time labelmates Dif Juz they sowed the seeds of post rock. Only they called it Oceanic Rock back then, expansive, immersive and elemental. Imagine a halfway point somewhere between Prince and Massive Attack or Jimi Hendrix and Slowdive. A.R.Kane were far and away the coolest band of their ilk, both in image and in their music.
A.R.Kane were astonishing.
The early stuff on this collection stands out. Before A.R.Kane released their debut album 69, they’d already dazzled me with single releases such as ‘When You’re Sad’ and ‘Lolita’. I never knew why they jumped around labels so much, going from One Little Indian to 4AD fairly rapidly before finally settling in at Rough Trade? Probably everybody knows the M/A/R/R/S story by now. (A.R.Kane collaborated with Colourbox and had a surprise No1 hit single. Although they barely played on ‘Pump Up The Volume’, the release was a double A side meaning the bands offering ‘Anitina’ was technically a UK Number One) All interesting enough trivia but back to the musical story because A.R.Kane were about to blow me away with their Up Home EP. This remains one of my favourite EPs of all time and hit a quality height that the debut album couldn’t quite match. You get all four songs here, so don’t sweat it. As if ‘One Way Mirror’ and ‘Baby Milk Snatcher’ somehow weren’t good enough we have the black, spaghetti western of ‘WOGS’, and the transcendent, unsurpassed majesty of ‘Up’.
As A.R.Kane progressed they loosened up. Double album i (the indie Sign Of The Times) was loaded with pop indulgences whilst still retaining the bands twisted sexiness. At this point, you’re better served by the albums than this compilation. Superb as it might be, I don’t need four versions of ‘A Love From Outer Space’. Around this time the band released the mini album Re(i)mixes with reinterpretations by the band and Robin Guthrie. These songs are not included here but I wouldn’t be overly concerned. As I recall it, the Re(i)mixes never added up to the sum of their parts and left me underwhelmed. It mattered little. The i album was remarkable and its associated singles are represented here in full.
Critical attention waned at this point, probably the result of Grunge’s growing popularity added to the financial difficulties of Rough Trade. A.R Kane were at least able to deliver a third and final act in the form of the New Clear Child (nuclear child?) album. Of the three albums I care for it least, it is too laid back and jazzy for my particular tastes and yet I care for it. ‘Sea Like A Child’ was the standout and is represented here. I wonder if the band knew how good they were? If truth be told, A.R.Kane never quite nailed any of their studio albums. If they had, they might have exploded into public consciousness. I’m sure they had it in them to create some kind of contemporary Electric Ladyland. As it happened, their best stuff fell onto EP’s and singles and therefore onto this collection. Snap it up.