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Monday, November 13, 2006

Cabaret Voltaire: the Three Mantras

CABVOL003_smallThe band formed in Sheffield in 1973 and experimented widely with sound creation and processing, seemingly more interested in sound itself rather than song; these early experiments are documented on the 3CD set Methodology (Mute 2002). They eventually turned to live performance - generally attracting hostility from Sheffield's working-class audiences. In one incident, Mallinder was hospitalised with a chipped backbone after the band had objects thrown at them. However the arrival of Punk rock brought a more accepting audience for their industrial, electronic sound.

In 1978, Cabaret Voltaire signed to Rough Trade Records. With Rough Trade they released several highly acclaimed musically experimental singles and EPs, including Extended Play, Nag Nag Nag, Three Mantras and 3 Crepuscule Tracks, and albums such as The Voice of America in 1980 and the widely-hailed Red Mecca in 1981.

During this time they toured Europe, Japan and America without major-label support, releasing Hai!, a live album recorded in Japan, in 1982.

In 1983, coinciding with the departure of Watson (who went on to found The Hafler Trio with Andrew M. McKenzie before becoming a BBC sound engineer and then a soloist), Cabaret Voltaire decided consciously to turn in a more commercial direction, with the album The Crackdown on Virgin Records. This decision was rewarded with the album reaching No. 31 in the UK - over 60 places higher than their previous (and only) chart placng. CABVOL002_smallIn 1984, the singles "Sensoria" and "James Brown" from the album Micro Phonies (also on Virgin) charted on the independent music charts as well as getting heavy play in the underground dance scene.

In 1987, the band released Code, followed by the house-influenced Groovy, Laidback & Nasty in 1990. A series of completely instrumental works under the Cabaret Voltaire name were released on Instinct Records in 1993 and 1994, but appeared to be largely the product of Kirk. However, Mallinder was present and involved in these recordings even if his vocals were absent. The only album where Mallinder's involvement is questionable is 1994's The Conversation where Kirk is credited with all instruments, programming, arrangements and samples and Mallinder gets only a co-writing credit. The last CV release to feature Mallinder singing is the ethno-techno single, Colours in 1990.

CABVOL001_smallSince the mid-late '80s, Kirk has begun a solo career under several names, including Electronic Eye and Sandoz, while Mallinder has relocated to Perth, Australia and records with a collaborator under the name Sassi & Loco and more recently in another collaborative effort the Kuling-Bros. Mallinder also helps run his own Offworld Sounds label and contributed to synths and programming on The Happy Mondays' singer Shaun Ryder's solo album Amateur Night at the Big Top.

Hopes of a Cabaret Voltaire reunion were raised when Kirk dropped hints in the late '90s, the most significant being in the notes of a reissue of Radiation, where Kirk says he is working on new CV material due to be released soon. This never happened and now a reunion looks unlikely in the near future. In a special 'Depeche Mode/History of Electro-pop' edition of Q Magazine, Kirk suggests he is still considering resurrecting the CV name but this time he plans to "Get some young people involved" hinting that Mallinder's role in the band may be finished.

Live at Amsterdam Paradiso 09/12/83 link fixed

Live at City Hall, St Albans 1983

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