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Arkham - Arkham CD (album) cover

ARKHAM

Arkham

 

Zeuhl

3.18 | 21 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars I think long-lost band Arkham have been confusingly placed under the Zeuhl tag because of including future Magma and Univers Zero musicians Jean-Luc Manderlier and Daniel Denis in the band. Don't get me wrong, there's occasional darker passages and creeping atmospheres that would explain why everyone's favourite French alien cult came calling, but what we have here is a full blown band in the Canterbury style, frequently comparable to the Soft Machine and Egg, as well as early Pink Floyd in a few spots. Best to mention right from the start, the biggest issue with this release is that much of the sound quality here rarely rises above that of a bootleg. Some listeners will instantly dismiss this right away, but I ask you to please persevere! Were it not for these technical issues, as well as the fact this is actually a compilation of live performances other a three year period and not a proper studio album, I truly believe the music here would be spoken of as highly as some of the classics by the other Canterbury legends.

Just listen to the blistering fuzz organ, murky bass and rollicking Robert Wyatt-styled hearty drumming that dominates punchy opener `Upstairs in the Granary' to know you're in deep Canterbury town! `Eve's Eventful Day part 5+6' comes close to the maddening repetition of Egg, as does the groovy `Monolithic Progression With Anticipated Rupture', a perfectly titled slow-builder of glistening jazzy electric piano, rattling drumming before a boisterous fuzz-organ explosion in the middle before a disorientating psych period Pink Floyd finale!

`Brussels Shortly After' has an impossibly soulful and reflective organ passage before turning into a foot-tapping groover with a `Saucerful of Secrets/Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast' uplifting close. I'm willing to be forgiving and say that the `recorded-in-a-toilet' sound quality of `Bleriot: Visibility Poor' actually enhances the dingy and slightly malevolent mood of this piece perfectly. It's all sinister creeping mystery full of organ reverberation and feedback. `With Assays of Bias' is thankfully more upbeat and keeps building in intensity with some manic drumwork and spiraling keyboard runs before an excessive and typically 70's overlong drum solo! `Eve's Eventful Day (part 3)' is a solemn yet somewhat uplifting electric piano piece than truly shines, very moving and thoughtful. `Riff 14' and `Tight Trousers' are sourced from a later line-up that included Claude Deron on Fluglehorn, the first is a hypnotic electronic experiment that morphs into a smoky drowsy shuffle that reminds of Italian fusioners Perigeo, where the latter is a short perky jazz tune that makes me wonder if the `tight trousers' of the band were caused by their love of Egg - sorry, couldn't resist!

The latest Japanese Mini LP SHM-CD reissue comes with three bonus pieces, and it's probably worth tracking down this particular version for these special extra fragments. The cute and endlessly upbeat `Shortly After (part 2)' will have you on such a natural high you'll float up to the clouds and want it to go on forever - the three minutes here is such a tease! `Exhibition 47 - Penelope' is more psychedelic and mysterious, the humming organ reminding again of the Floyd's early days before the band tears through a maniacal loopy run. The trio kick up a furious storm in the wild and delirious `Eve's Eventual Day (part 4 and 5). Just listen to this and shed a tear for a wonderful band we never got to hear more of.

If you can persist with the frequent bootleg-level audio quality of some of the pieces, you'll realize how tragic it is that the band never recorded this material in a proper studio setting, and also that these live recordings were not better committed to tape and preserved in the first place. The band would definitely have been down the scuzzier end of the Canterbury style, their occasionally darker sound would have made them really stand out with a unique contribution to the genre.

What we have left is a spectacular example of a missed opportunity, and progressive rock being robbed of a potentially exciting Canterbury styled band with wonderful music to offer the world. Luckily there's plenty of jaw dropping moments for you to discover throughout this compilation, and if you can look past the audio deficiencies and focus on the actual arrangements and talented playing, you may find this to something of a real treasure. I know I certainly do, and it's become an essential part of my Canterbury collection.

Four stars for this lost Canterbury secret.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |

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