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Arkham by Arkham

The 70s (and the late 60s) were a time when "fusion" was NOT a commercially accepted genre/classification. In many ways, fusion was just as distrusted and reviled as bebop was by the swing establishment, free jazz by the boppers and punk rock by darn near everybody. There ware SO many people doing different kinds of fusion (from happy-poppy to caustic) that a lot of good stuff got lost in the shuffle. And it’s record companies like Cuneiform that are out to remedy that.

Once upon a time in France (1970-72) there was a band called Arkham, whose members would go on to relative fame in the demonstrably non/anti-commercial rock/jazz/classical-fusion Euro-bands Magma and Univers Zero. They were a "fusion" band, but because they were French white guys with long hair, any record store lucky/crazy enough to stock their records would stick them in with the rock imports. Yet they were a vocal-less "piano trio" (a guy playing a variety of keyboards, electric bassist, drummer) who played a melodious, funk-less brand of jazz-rock similar to Britain’s premier fusion outfit Soft Machine. Jean-Luc Manderlier plays Hammond organ and clavioline with a think, snaking timbre that’s almost horn-like. Influences of Brian Auger, Larry Young, Sun Ra and Joe Zawinul (post-Miles) are present, along with the cyclic-repetition style of minimalist composer Terry Riley. Daniel Denis (drums) and Patrick Cogneaux (bass) complete the picture with their fluid, supple playing. Tempos are slow to middle-range - Arkham focus on subtle development of themes and motifs, avoiding excessive displays of razzle-dazzle technique. The recording quality varies a bit - in spots the sound is slightly muffled/distant. Pristine digital it’s not, but so what - that shouldn’t deter you from partaking of a little-heard slice of history. If you cherish early fusion and/or Soft Machine, the jazzier side of King Crimson, Isotope, Hatfield and the North, pre-Mahavishnu John McLaughlin, even early-70s Brian Auger, Arkham, while not exactly a classic, is well-worth seeking out.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Arkham
  • CD Title: Arkham
  • Genre: Fusion
  • Year Released: 2002
  • Record Label: Cuneiform
  • Rating: Four Stars
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