Thursday, 17 May 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #182 - Cabaret Voltaire, "1974-76"

Cabs have featured in the Peel Archive in a big way and the Irma Vep tracks I've been sent by Darren Parry at The Difference Engine on Mon FM are taking their time to arrive and be playable. So I'm listening to this because it promises to be fresh cream pulled from early mid-Seventies experiments in a time when Sheff City was a very difference place than it is now.

I suppose electronic music has changed massively since then. It's interesting (or maybe it isn't) how danceable patterns of the music came in and took control as if that's all music was ever any good for. As if that was the whole point of music. This album is not about dancing. I'm not sure what it's about. It's about weirdness, but I'm not sure what it's expressing.

Does it express the ideas that kick around inside a mind left on its own with some peculiar noises? Or in the case of the Cabs, two minds? "In Quest of the Unusual" in fact. When the machine makes the noise in an uncompromising way, and the person is expected to join the dots themselves, set the branches stirring out into the distance of their own imagination; is that what happened here? "Do The Snake" is a bit like a crazed version of a dance track ("Keep your ass up high/Well off the ground") with some percussion and a bit of bass; but it's jokey, boffiny business. Somehow we got from here to The Prodigy; from here to Pete Tong. Or maybe we didn't; maybe this was some Neanderthal version of dance music that was outbred by the "I Feel Love" strain. That probably was the right result.

"Venusian Animals" is a bit transparent as titles go. Setting a soundscape. There's a noise like oboes. And solar winds. Too much sci-fi, but then who else was going to make instruments from mail order kits in a time like the Seventies? And I suppose it describes strange, alien creatures - a paraphrase of the strange, alien noises they were making without a real guidebook. So I like it.

There's eight minutes of the "The Outer Limits" with a sound like a dematerialising TARDIS running through most of it. That and "She Loved You" are quite repetitive. Maybe this was the stage at which they were beginning to get the hang of what they were doing and started expressing themselves rather than interpreting the machines? It always gets boring and repetitive when you begin to get to grips with a new thing. And it's a sort of distended, distempered cover of The Beatles' "She Loves You" in a whispered mumble. The "yeah/yeah"s are especially cool.

Rating: Sci-Fi Adventures out of Mail Order Envelopes

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