Cabaret Voltaire are often seen as one of the pioneering groups of the British industrial music scene in the mid 70's, much like contemporaries Throbbing Gristle they started life as a dada influenced performance art act later to focus more on the kind of subversive musical experiments that would fill the gap left by the death of the first wave of punk rock towards the end of the decade. Alongside the birth of post-punk, something of a more artsy, misanthropic kind of angst was in the air from a generation of people influenced by post-modern literature, art and controversial underground political and philosophical views. Tied in with the potential of what the coming digital age was beginning to offer for harsher, more mechanical and soulless sound experimentation, the first wave of industrial music was born.
Cabaret Voltaire leant more towards post-punk then most of their peers, and their first release in 1979's Mix-Up
shows that more then anything. The Cabs would go on to be seen as a pioneering force in both industrial and electronic music in general, but the early experiments on offer here don't quite have the same feel as some of their later work. Kirlian Photograph
, led by a goofy bassline, simple drum machine and a hissing, dissonant synth rhythm playing off this rhythmic interplay it is similar to much of the feel of the album. The production is dark, with a distinct analogue quality that is both detrimental to its sound and part of its appeal.
is very similar, probably a little more playful with its distorted textures and almost happy sounding melodies. Fourth Shot
sounds like it could have been a Public Image Ltd. track if they dabbled in electronic sounds a little more, beginning with some electronic warbling it introduces a lonely hi-hat snare and dissonant rhythm guitar. It provides a nice wall of gloomy texture, as does Eyeless Sight
, with a more pronounced old school drum machine driving it. Many of the other songs follow very similar formulas, something of underproduced old school post-punk with some electronic effects and noise experimentation. It's probably not worth pulling these apart for that mere fact, but suffice it to say despite the lack of variety the album remains an interesting listen.
is one of the first industrial recordings to emerge from one of it's key pioneers, and so is probably more valuable as a history lesson for most then something that is pleasurable to listen today. That is not to say this is not an appealing listen, to fans of post-punk, analogue electronic music and lo-fi in general there is plenty to enjoy. It'd probably be worth getting something like The Voice of America
or Throbbing Gristle's The Second Annual Report