Many Univers Zero fans knew of Arkham, but very few had actually heard any music by this group prior to the release of this CD by Cuneiform in January 2002. This eponymous album culls various recordings, none of them professional, spanning Arkham's brief career from June 1970 (the group became active the previous month) until April 1972. Rehearsal tapes and self-made live recordings are all that is left of Jean-Luc Manderlier, Daniel Denis, and Patrick Cogneaux's trio, since despite critical and popular support they did not have a chance to record an album at the time. Of course Denis would form Univers Zero a few months after the group's dissolution, together with Claude Deron, who incidentally performed on flugelhorn at Arkham's last concerts (he is heard in "Riff 14" and "Tight Trousers"). But the connection to UZ ends here. The music, all Manderlier, is firmly clutching at Soft Machine circa Third and Fourth and akin to Egg, the instrumental side of Caravan, and Hatfield & the North. The compositions belong to this kind of Canterbury-flavored jazz/prog, seriously complex and at the same time playful. The last two tracks move away from the rock realm, relying on the flugelhorn to build jazzier atmospheres. Sound quality ranges from OK to poor. For the most part these tracks are listenable and worth releasing for fans of UZ's entourage, but chances are they will test the patience of casual listeners, who should start with more essential material.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by François Couture