Sunday, August 26, 2012

MAGNIFIERS: CABARET VOLTAIRE the art of the sixth sense by Mick Fish & D. Hallbery

This book from 1985 (second edition 1989) is quite unlike any pop bio one might find oneself immersed in while in the "reading room" awaiting evacuation and celebrating isolation.  It is essentially a series of interviews with the three key members of Cabaret Voltaire: Richard H. Kirk,  Stephen Mallinder,  and Chris Watson.  Their brand of experimental music borrowed ideas from literature (William Burroughs,  in particular),  the visual arts (Dada, Surrealism,  Performance Art,  Pop Art), "serious"  experimental music (Cage,  Stockhausen),  and film (Bunuel,  Warhol/Morrisey,  Fellini,  Kenneth Anger).  Early on (1974 or so), these influences only added up to a jumble of noise,  tape loops,  and audio verite.  Eventually they jelled into a most peculiar kind of art song,  a seemingly reckless blend of garage experimentalism,  the Velvet Underground,  and cheap drum machines.  Growing up,  I found albums like THE MIX UP (1979),  THE VOICE OF AMERICA (1980),  THREE MANTRAS (1980),  and RED MECCA (1981) most compelling as a form of anti-establishment paranoia,  where conspiracy theories,  political/religious soundbites,  heavily processed vocals,  and harsh sounds coalesced into a voice I wanted to speak in.  The interviews here give us a glimpse into those dark rooms of conception, motivation,  and chance before commercial concerns took a bit of a bite out their recordings.  Mick Fish (who joined the band as a drummer after Chris Watson left) followed this book with an of addendum of sorts in 2002,  INDUSTRIAL EVOLUTION: THROUGH THE EIGHTIES WITH CABARET VOLTAIRE.  Both books are essential reading for those interested in Sheffield's early music scene,  a milieu that added groups like the Cabs,  Clock DVA and Throbbing Gristle to our radical pop playlists. 

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