A.R. Kane - Biography

A.R. Kane were an East London duo of Alex Ayuli and Rudy Tambala, who coined the term “dream-pop” to describe their experimental, miasmic music.


A.R. Kane’s vocalist, Ayuli, worked as an advertising copyriter, first at JWT, then at TBWA, where his most widely-recognized work was on a Lego commercial. The commercial’s director, Matt Forest, subsequently asked Ayuli and his creative team to create a music video for Stephen Duffy’s single, “Unkiss that Kiss” in 1985. Afterward, Ayuli quit advertising and formed A.R. Kane with multi-instrumentalist Rudy Tambala in 1986. That year they released their debut single, “When you’re Sad” on One Little Indian.


Early on, critics frequently made comparisons to the likes of Robert Wyatt and Cocteau Twins.
The only influence the band would cop to was Miles Davis. Though defying easy categorization, someone in the media came up with a lazy and fairly inaccurate description that nonetheless stuck, “The Black Jesus & Mary Chain.” To be sure, A.R. Kane were capable of drenching the listener with harsh feedback but even at their rockingest, one could usually pick up strong elements of dub and dance that were not part of the palette of their Scottish peers. Meat Whiplash they were not.


Their follow-up, 1987’s “Lollita”, was produced by Robin Guthrie and released on 4AD and, not surprisingly, a good deal more ethereal than their debut. 4AD’s label chief Ivo Watts-Russell suggested A.R. Kane and their label-mates Colourbox team up for collaboration. They did, as M/A/R/R/S, releasing the single “Pump up the Volume” which became the first 4AD release to reach number one in the UK. In the US, it reached number thirteen.  Although there were plans for a full-length, A.R. Kane instead moved to Rough Trade.


Their full-length debut, 69 (1988 Rough Trade) was both their most rock-based album as well as their most freewheelingly experimental. At several points, it closely presaged the shoegazer scene that arose a couple of years later. Bands including Long Fin Killie, Slowdive, Dubstar, The Veldt, Apollo Heights and Seefeel have all since expressed their debt to their dream-pop inspiration. The release of 69 was followed by the Up Home! EP (1988 Rough Trade).


Their second album, “i” (1989 Rough Trade) was more musically varied, and a good deal more dancey and poppy. It’s was followed by the six-track rem"i"xes EP (1990 Rough Trade Deutschland) which featured tracks from the full-length remixed by Guthrie A. R. Kane themselves. After its release, Ayuli moved to a small home in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, three hours from San Francisco. Rough Trade went bankrupt in 1991 and the band were set adrift. After Tambala resurfaced remixing a track for David Byrne, Byrne’s label, Luaka Bop, released a fifteen song A.R. Kane compilation (with one previously unreleased track, “Water”) in the US, titled Americana (1992 Luaka Bop).


In 1994, Tambali and Ayuli released their third album, New Clear Child (1994 Luaka Bop), which they recorded in London and San Francisco. The results were generally less well-received than its predecessors, largely due to its streamlined nature and more accessible sound. After the album’s commercial and critical failure, Ayuli traveled, worked on a screenplay and learned about Chinese furniture. In 1995, he and Tambali once again reconvened, this time together in California. After producing a couple of tracks that neither were happy with, A.R. Kane permanently dissolved.


Tambala continued to make ambient and dub-based music with psychedelic flourishes with his sister Maggie as Sufi. They released one album, Life’s Rising (1995 Caroline). Tambala went on to work for Virgin Digital and then Ministry of Sound, where he serves as head of new media. He’s since settled in Hertfordshire, and although he doesn’t make his living from music any longer, he occasionally releases tracks as MusicOne.


Ayuli went on to work as a museum curator. He still releases music as Alex! which is very much in the vein of A.R. Kane. In 2006, he sang guest vocals on two tracks for Mexicali-based electronic producer, Fax.  He was recently featured in the documentary Beautiful Noise, about the shoegazer scene.

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