Arkham - Arkham

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Cuneiform Records
Catalog Number: Rune 160
Format: CD
Total Time: 62:15:00

Second chances are one of the hardest things to come across in a world where change is vertiginously rapid and new generations feast upon the remains of the previous status quo merely seconds before being ravenously devoured themselves. The past is soon forgotten, and memories remain but in a few minds, the number of which diminishes accordingly with time. So it seems fit that those bands never having released an album throughout the course of their existence should not be able to do so once they're gone, right? Wrong.

Arkham is a collection of Belgium's early best-kept progressive secret: a trio influenced by the sounds of Canterbury and taking its native country by storm before disbanding and having its integrating cells merge with other outfits that would actually manage to release some groundbreaking material, namely Magma and Univers Zéro. But despite national recognition and several live performances of considerable importance, and for one reason or another, these musicians just never entered a studio in order to record and release an album, so that it is not until thirty years after Arkham's demise that the prog aficionado can acquire an official album - a window into the different phases of the band through various performances and rehearsals that quite surprisingly has a much better sound than one would initially wager (and although of course it still sounds far from being a professional studio recording, the clarity and mix are surprisingly good).

Unlike the work of Univers Zéro and Magma, however, Arkham's compositions have not aged as well, and the heavy spirit of improvisation and jamming that constitutes half of their life force simply meanders off too much by today's standards. An ailment that mainly cripples the albums longest tracks, such as "With Assays Of Bias," on which an extended drum solo from Daniel Denis fires away with percussive relentlessness, but which also gets to be quite trying of one's patience after a while. In sharp contrast, shorter pieces like "Upstairs In The Granary" and "Eve's Eventful Day (Part 3)" constantly maintain an edge of surprise sprinkled with the psychedelic taints of Canterbury and are gallantly or daringly led by Jean-Luc Manderlier's Hammond, as befits the respective case.

Perhaps the most endearing characteristic of Arkham, and the one that almost certainly conforms the counterattack for sporadic lack of true focus, is youthful vigor. Patrick Cogneaux seems possessed every time he locks into a groove with Daniel Denis, and the pieces played by the band exude an intensity that simply cannot be ignored, which of course gives the music a certain naïve charm that betrays the enthusiasm with which the band must have played. It is only until the latter stages of the band, on "Riff 14" and "Tight Trousers," that the augmented jazz tendency and the work of new members Claude Deron and Christian Ramon grants a heightened sense of cohesiveness and purpose to the compositions, with the beginning of "Tight Trousers" even predicting what Univers Zéro would sound like a few years later and thus momentarily shattering the mold of Arkham; one that is quite different from that of the members' following musical enterprises.

It must be said that the value of Arkham is not to be underestimated, as it is not only a historical archive of importance in the annals of European progressive rock, but also a musical statement in itself that despite its shortcomings is quite able to stand on its own two feet. It is another element of the Canterbury sound stretching out beyond the confines of England, and the result of a trio of young musicians who still had some way left to musically mature, but who nevertheless were able to put together a selection of instrumentals with a slightly offbeat nature and an often grooving Hammond-led intensity that is recurrently accompanied by curious sonic experiments or bents. If anything, it's a good thing that Arkham got a second chance. Not many do.

Similar artists: Soft Machine, Egg, Glass

Upstairs In The Granary (5:11) / Eve's Eventful Day (Parts 5 & 6) (3:22) / Monolithic Progression With Anticipated Rupture (8:00) / Brussels Shortly After (8:30) / Bleriot: Visibility Poor (8:18) / With Assays of Bias (10:21) / Eve's Eventful Day (Part 3) (4:45) / Riff 14 (8:48) / Tight Trousers (4:37)

Jean-Luc Manderlier - Hammond organ, electric piano, clavioline
Daniel Denis - drums, whistles
Patrick Cogneaux - bass, strange frequency modulations

Additional musicians:

Claude "Piccolo" Berkovitch - bass
Claude Deron - electric flugelhorn
Christian "Djoum" Ramon - bass

Arkham (2002)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin BE

Added: April 21st 2002
Reviewer: Marcelo Silveyra
Hits: 991
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]