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30 May 2017

Arkham "Arkham" 2002 (recorded in 1970-1972) Belgium Prog Rock Canterbury Scene








Arkham  "Arkham" 2002 (recorded in 1970-1972) Belgium Prog Rock Canterbury Scene
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ARKHAM are an early 70’s prog band that featured keyboard player Jean-Luc Manderlier who would later join MAGMA, drummer Daniel Denis who would also move on to MAGMA as well as UNIVERS ZERO, and drummer Patrick Cogneaux. As you will have guessed, their music is highly reminiscent of the avant-garde giants. This all-instrumental trio (keyboards, bass and drums) never actually recorded any official album, although tapes of their many shows and rehearsals between 1970-72 resulted in the compilation of a cd, released in1994 by Cuneiform.

ARKHAM aren’t nearly as dark as MAGMA or UNIVERS ZERO, their jazzy overtones placing them a little closer to SOFT MACHINE. The three musicians, who show some maturity, are obviously pouring their hearts out through out the album, which exudes an intensity that can’t be ignored. The material, however, hasn’t aged very well - and not only technically speaking. The spirit of improvisation and heavy jamming that were the life force of so many similar bands in the early 70’s sound tedious and a little contrived nowadays. For this reason, “Arkham”’s most successful tracks are the shorter ones. The historical value of this cd is not to be underestimated. Not only has it got its place in the Euro-prog family tree, but it shows a group of young musicians who weren’t afraid to experiment with offbeat musical styles and were the precursors of a lot of good things to come…………

If you’re addicted to Egg or Soft Machine like I once was, I would suggest you track down this album. The sound quality isn’t great, but there is some very beautiful Canterbury-esque music on here. Arkham is HEAVILY influenced by the Softs. The keyboard player even has a Mike Ratledge persona! They do have their own sound though (sorta..). H.P. Lovecraft serves as an inspiration to the band and can be showed in the darker aspects of Arkham’s compositions. Daniel Denis’ drumming blew me away. The bass guitar is ever present but isn’t terribly noteworthy. Jean-Luc provides gorgeous soloing timbre with his Clavioline in many of the songs. Two of my favorite songs are ‘Brussels Shortly After’ and 'Tight Trousers’. 'Brussels’ opens cleverly with 2 arpeggiated major 7th chords on electric piano, the second keeping the first major 7th’s 7th, creating an unexpected dissonance. The composition goes further into light electric piano-led delight-fullness. Jean-Luc provides an absolutely gorgeous Clavioline solo. The song then goes into some diminished riff and eventually returns to the delightful chord progression with some more Clavioline. My other favorite song, 'Tight Trousers’, is a favorite because it isn’t a Soft Machine copy like the majority of the other songs on the album. There are plenty of unique atmospheres being sounded in it. Shame Arkham didn’t last too long. Songs like 'Tight Trousers’, 'Eve’s Eventful Day’, and 'Brussels Shortly After’ showed where Arkham were heading (out of Soft Machine jams and into tight RIO outfits)…… by Tengent………..

Would probably get one more half-star if the sound was not so poor . Not that the outstanding Cuneiform Label hides it but some of the tapes I would hesitate to publish just because of the state they are in. But the music on the tape is among the hidden gems from Belgium, as this is the first group of Daniel Denis (from Univers Zero) . He and Manderlier make the backbone of this group who played at Amougies Festival in the early 70’s along so many Canterbury bands and other. They never put out an album at the time so , this can only interest completist of those years. Worth a spin for whomever enjoys Soft Machine, Nucleus , Matching Mole and Placebo - not the actual one - the early 70’s Belgian jazz-rock band fronted by Marc Moulin that did such a masterful three record never re-edited on cd………. by Sean Trane …………..

It’s really too bad that this band never put out a studio or live album back in the day. What we have here are songs that were recorded live from concerts or rehearsals between 1970-1972. I say it’s too bad because the sound quality is a lot like some of the bootlegs i’ve heard. Not very good at all. Fortunately some songs are better than others and at least we can appreciate how talented this band was. There is a real Canterbury flavour to thier music which isn’t surprising considering SOFT MACHINE was their biggest influence.The band originally consisted of Daniel Denis on drums, he would go on to form UNIVERS ZERO with Claude Deron who coincidently was also part of ARKHAM(later on) playing electric flugelhorn. Deron is featured on the last 2 tracks.Jean-Luc Manderlier played piano and organ and would later join MAGMA and play on the MDK record. Daniel Denis would join MAGMA at the same time as Jean-Luc but only play a few concerts before leaving. The bass player was Claude Berkovitch who would leave and be replaced by Patrick Cogneaux who would go on to play for a great band called PAZOP. ARKHAM opend for MAGMA the very first time they played in Belgium in 1971. Obviously Vander was impressed. I want to touch on the 3 tracks that sound ok and also impressed me a lot.
“Monolithic Progression With Anticipated Rupture” opens with piano playing solo as bass and drums start to make some noise 1 ½ minutes in. This is such a cool melody. A fuller sound 3 ½ minutes in as the organ comes in and steals the show. Strange effects 5 ½ minutes in as melody has stopped and then different sounds come and go. Piano and then a melody 7 ½ minutes in. Amazing tune. “Eve’s Eventful Day(Part 3)” has this uptempo intro that calms down to piano only rather quickly. A fuller sound 1 ½ minutes in as drums enter. I love the melody 3 ½ minutes in of dark and melancholical organ, bass and drums. Nice.

“Tight Trousers” is one of the classic Canterbury titles. It opens with organ sounds and some flugelhorn before we start to get this great melody before a minute.The organ and bass play is outstanding 2 minutes in and the drums are all over the place. Flugelhorn comes and goes. Piano 4 minutes in.

For me this more of a historical document that I do value. There are certainly more songs than the three I mentioned that are worthy of conversation.To be honest though, you need to know that the sound quality is poor at times.The music would be 4 stars easy, but considering the sound of it 3 stars is fair…..by Mellotron Storm …………

Line-up / Musicians
- Jean-Luc Manderlier / hammond organ, electric piano, clavioline
- Daniel Denis / drums, whistles
- Patrick Cogneaux / bass and some strange frequency modulations

Additional musicians:
- Claude “Piccolo” Berkovitch / bass (track 3)
- Claude Deron / electric flugelhorn (tracks 8 & 9)
- Christian “Djoum” Ramon / bass (tracks 8 & 9)

Songs / Tracks Listing
1. Upstairs In The Granery (5:11)
2. Eve’s Eventful Day (part 5 & 6) (3:22)
3. Monolithic Progression With Anticipated Rupture (8:00)
4. Brussels Shortly After (8:30)
5. Bleriot: Visibility Poor (8:18)
6. With Assays Of Bias (10:21)
7. Eve’s Eventful Day (part 3) (4:45)
8. Riff 14 (8:48)
9. Tight Trousers (4:37) 

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..

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