[sic] Magazine

A.R. Kane – A.R. Kive Box-Set

East London friends Rudy Tambala and Alex Ayuli formed A.R. Kane after being inspired by a Cocteau Twins performance on Ch4s flagship music show, The Tube. Following just one single they were snapped up by the 4AD label and found themselves labelmates with their heroes. (Robin Guthrie would go on to produce and remix the group.) Although they will forever be thought of as a 4AD band, A.R. Kane s sojourn on the fashionable indie label was short-lived due in large part to the fallout over the M|A|R|R|S project. Yet despite their brief tenure A.R. Kane were pivotal to 4ADs future direction as the legal and commercial ramifications of M|A|R|R|S huge chart success altered the labels focus irrevocably.

A.R. Kive comprises three of A. R. Kanes greatest releases, namely their first two albums and their best EP. All of the music in this lavish vinyl box set was actually originally released on the Rough Trade label, a home that admittedly seemed a curious fit for a band who were at the forefront of the Oceanic rock scene. Like Cocteau Twins and The Jesus and Mary Chain, A.R. Kane preceded shoegazing and dreampop by several years. A.R. Kane even coined the term dreampop in respect of their own music. They may only have had a modest following but they were highly influential. Their debut album 69 continues to be a source of fascination. I just can’t get my head around just how uncompromising and accomplished it sounded then and still sounds now. To me, 69 feels like a final album, a culmination, rather than a first outing.

Like many of A. R. Kanes releases the name 69 is clever, referring most obviously to the sexual act itself, but also a nod to the year 1969 which is regarded as a bit of a zenith for rock music. The 6 and the 9 also form a yin-yang as part of the sleeve art. The album itself blends noise pop, jazz, avant-garde and dub in fitting tribute to that stellar year. It’s as though the weirdest parts of Electric Ladyland threw a party for Miles Davis and The Velvet Underground.

69 is insanely good. It’s also insane. The album is an organic, shifting piece of work that is hard to pin down. It feels like 69 has a mind of its own. Crazy Blue, Baby Milk Snatcher and Spermwhale Trip Over at least offer the listener a melody that they can hang their hat on. However tracks like Sulliday and the ambiguous trio that end the album seem more like installations than songs. The whole record feels submerged and unfathomable, like somebody else’s fever dream.

It remains a masterpiece.

Up Home

And, of course, masterpieces are difficult to follow. Yet follow it they did with a run of excellent EPs and singles the best of which, Up Home is included in this set. Up Home feels like a distillation of 69s myriad ideas into a shorter, but equally intoxicating draught. Perhaps it’s the format that helps? EPs felt like the perfect vehicle for experimental music. Or perhaps it’s just the sheer quality of the material.

Baby Milk Snatcher pops up again, this time as a longer, different version. The hazed out W.O.G.S. is incredible while One Way Mirror recalls Anitina (Pump Up The Volumes flip side) and signposts the bands future with its noise pop hinting towards dance and house music. However the standout piece of work, and closing track, Up has to be one of A.R. Kanes finest.

“Forward ever ascending
Our head in the clouds
I watch as the dolphins
Tear off all their shrouds
Your head is a halo
It catches the light
As I enter the gates
What a glorious sight”

Up could equally be about tripping as it could be about dying. Whichever it is, it remains, literally and figuratively, heavenly.

On their second full length A.R. Kane found back their playful side. Chin stroking avant/noise jazz gave way to urban dance/pop music on the resulting double album “i” – the “i”, of course also referencing an eye, as depicted on the cover.

“i”s 26 tracks were arranged like half a deck of cards with each suit representing a side of vinyl as well as ‘joker’ tracks acting as segues and codas. Like most double albums “i” was overambitious but it nevertheless contained great music – a lot of great music, in fact.

In another universe “i” could have spawned massive hit singles in the form of Miles Apart and A Love From Outer Space (Crack Up and Pop were the official promotional singles) whereas existing fans could be more than satisfied with material such as Spook and Honeysuckleswallow. 69 had only been a year earlier but the stylistic shift here was tangible. “i” is cleaner and more accessible than 69. It probably surprised a few people when it came out. Personally I’d happily re-buy this album for one track alone. Catch My Drift, a lilting slice of dub loveliness, has forever been a favourite of mine. Cheerful, breezy and almost innocuous, Catch My Drift drops the hammer with the lyric – “Why don’t you….slash my wrist”. THAT’S A. R. Kane. Cool, clever…. provocative.

To then bookend the album with Challenge was just genius.

Flawed and bloated as it undoubtedly was, I loved “i”. In many ways “i” seems to anticipate the nineties. I remember trying to explain it to friends at an event in London around the time of its release. ‘It’s the indie Sign O The Times’, I implored as I noticed their disbelief turning into disinterest. I couldn’t sway them but the following week I saw those exact same words in print. The walls have ears! Oh well. You can’t have a monopoly on an idea, can you. Unless you’re A.R. Kane of course, who were and remain, practically peerless. If you’re into dreampop, shoegaze or proto post –rock, if you’re a fan of Talk Talk, Disco Inferno, Bark Psychosis, Durutti Column, Dif Juz, Slowdive, Seefeel or My Bloody Valentine, I suspect you’ll love A.R. Kane too. Then again, the fact that you’re here suggests that you already do.


A.R. Kive began life when Rudy unearthed a box full of master tapes. I recall his delight at the time. The discovery allowed for the remastering and repackaging that we have here. The box set also contains extended notes, a biodiscography, a football shirt* (The Brazil, away strip from 1969 obviously), badges* and a download code for remixes by the likes of Slowdive and others. (*Deluxe versions only) All the various bundles are available from the Rocket Girl label via the link provided.

A.R. Kive is released by Rocket Girl on 6.9.2023. (The 6th of the 9, think about it!)
It is a thing of beauty.

Pre order at Rocket Girl