Rough Trade, 1989
REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/27/2011
It isn’t surprising that, as an album with 26 songs in all, spanning a range of different styles, “i” has a terrible short attention span. Between its idiosyncratic sound-bytes and genre-bending numbers, this is a directionless album, hopping along from song to song with impulsive frivolity.
Because of its lack of cohesion, “i” is more like a happy coincidence of random songs finding their way into this collection. It is as if A.R. Kane members Alex Ayuli and Rudy Tambala never intended an album when they wrote and recorded songs for “i”. However, in an attempt to add some sense of coherence, the songs – wittingly or unwittingly by the band – are grouped together by similar styles, which compartmentalizes the album into its own little EP sets (after the inclusion of the sound-bytes), creating beautiful randomness that contrasts and cohabitates next to one another.
The first nine cuts on “i” make up the disco section of the album. Best exemplified by the one song A.R. Kane is best known for, “A Love From Outer Space,” this bunch of songs is dominated by ‘80s dance pop. The next 11 songs make up the ethereal section of “i.” In stark contrast to the previous chunk of songs, beautiful guitar fuzz and moody dreamscapes make up this particular section. This group of songs also has more interesting cuts like the orchestral “In A Circle.”
The next four cuts (three actual songs) take the ethereal dreaminess of the previous section and turn it into grimy white noise with vocals that are harsh, with every last drop of melodiousness sucked out of them. This is the “noise” section of the record, and is also its hardest. Lastly, there is the lonely “Catch My Drift,” which is the disc’s only dub/reggae themed number.
A.R. Kane seems at utmost ease with the various guises they don on “i” and has fun with it, too. Ayuli and Tambala’s enjoyment with what they do on this record is contagious and manifests as tunes that are fun to listen to, no matter which musical mould each one fits into. However, there is no lack of depth in this record either. Short of being gloomy, this is a pretty serious record, with a level of acute musical foxiness that only an extremely talented band can achieve.
“i” can be disorienting but it is an absolute blast. It never sounds absurd or ponderous. Throughout the long journey of 26 songs voyaging through contrasting moods, Ayuli and Tambala appear to be in full control of the music. It is shocking that an album of this kind never ever goes awry.