As an artist partially inspired by dream pop, it’s obviously no coincidence that songwriter Richard Kaufmann has adopted the moniker r.a.kane. In truth, ‘Asylum’ doesn’t sound an awful lot like namesake a.r.kane but it is similarly “out there”, with the Londoner and his bandmates trying his best to avoid comparisons with today’s music scene and largely succeeding.
So whilst some of the arrangements fit into the shoegaze/dream pop mould, Kaufmann’s own vocals appear to be much more earthy; sounding not unlike a southern Ian Brown for the brief opener ‘On Drifting Threads’. In truth it’s a bit of a false dawn for what is to come. On the next track, Charlie Brooker’s memories of Bagpuss combine with ornate keyboards and military drums for the nostalgic curiosity that is ‘Making Noises’. This is an album where boy/girl harmonies (‘Harbingers Of Love’) rub shoulders with concise progressive pop (‘From Circa Kings’, ‘Belles Of East London’). Meanwhile, Noelle Casello’s viola contributions add an elegant counterpoint to Kaufmann’s wild tendencies for ‘Clementine (Or Near Enough)’ and the title track.
There are certainly occasions when Kaufmann’s meanderings are a little too wayward to appreciate but perfection is reached for ‘Upon Hearing The Voice Of The Venerable Bede’; it is a wonderful pop obscurity, revolving around a pretty rolling piano melody and Kaufmann’s most yearning and comforting vocal turn. Finally, the closing, haunting eleven minute piece, ‘The White Falcon’, shows the ambition of the project and it’s a fitting and emotional showcase for the frontman’s baroque piano pop.
‘Asylum’ is unquestionably a very different album which sees r.a.kane as a kindred spirit to Bombay Bicycle Club or even Prefab Sprout, with some unusual variations on indie-folk. The unwillingness to stick with song structure probably means this act will never gain more than a cult following but there is some brave, quintessentially British music here which deserves to be heard.
Bark Prelude, Bombay Bicycle Club, Kissing The Pink