Les Disques Du Crépuscule 1988. TWI749
This is, in my humble opinion, the mighty Cabs best period. It’s a compilation which gathers together various somewhat random tracks from the early 80s.
It kicks off with the three parts of Sluggin’ Fer Jesus, recorded in the US with the band horrified/enthralled by the insane money grabbing right wing TV evangelists they saw on hotel room TVs. They take the crazed rantings and superimpose a minimal electronic backing. Yashar was a Factory single which combines a sample from Outer Limits with oddly eastern sounding electronics.
It’s side 2 which is the highlight for me. The dark, menacing Invocation might just be my favourite Cabs track, and the album closes with an amazing and unlikely cover of Isaac Hayes’ Theme From Shaft. That the Cabs should cover a classic funk track is unexpected of course, although their use of rhythm was on occasion quite funky, but this manages to be both very faithful to the original while still retaining the menacing minimal Cabs sound. The classic guitar work on Hayes original is accurately reproduced electronically – a trick you’d think would be impossible. The lyrics are entirely unsuited to the Cabs style, but even that they manage to make work. Truly astonishing.
Parlophone 1989. 12RS 6227
When I got back from shivering and being rained on in France, it was good to see a fresh batch of Cabs stuff over on Everything Starts With An A. He posted the two albums from their much maligned major label period, when, in the words of Yeah Yeah Noh, they made a move for chart position. His comments are absolutely spot on – this is not vintage Cabs by any means, and at the time their fans were horrified, for reasons which are obvious if you compare this material to their indie label output. It’s commercial electronic dance music, with more than a nod to New Order and even the Pet Shop Boys in places. So to compliment his posts, here’s the first of several singles from the same period.
Part of Parlophone’s ineffective marketing effort was filling record shops with very cheap singles containing endless remixes to try to catapult the Cabs into the charts. I didn’t buy the albums having read the withering reviews, but couldn’t resist these cheap-as-chips singles – in fact I don’t think I even paid for some of them.
This single is taken from the album Groovy, Laid Back and Nasty and includes a rather unnecessary four versions. Given the band’s legacy of inventive and experimental electronica, this was disappointing stuff, but taken on its own terms it works pretty well and I recall playing it quite a bit. It deserved to chart and to get lots of attention in mainstream clubs, but neither happened.
Beyond 1994. RBADLP 08
This wasn’t an album I intended to rip simply because it’s so long – a quadruple. However two things made me change my mind – firstly how good it is, and also because my newborn son (Sam) really likes it. Laid back bass heavy electronic music seems to be his thing, so sitting around listening to this was even more of a pleasure than usual.
Electronic Eye was one of a multitude of aliases for Richard H Kirk. He’s best known as a founder member of Cabaret Voltaire (2 earlier posts for them here and here), and he also appears on this blog as Sandoz. He’s produced such a vast body of work, I can only claim to have scratched the surface, but for me this is one of his best and stands up as one of the best electronic albums of the 90s.
It is perhaps a bit long – the ideas here could have been condensed down, but the best tracks (Bush Channel Stepper and Data Crime stand out for me) more than make up for it. Still with an album of this quality, a bit of self-indulgence is more acceptable than usual. I prefer my electronica dark, and as you’d expect with the subject matter (surveillance, hence Electronic Eye) this album delivers on that score too.
Virgin 1985. CVM1.
I guess you could call this an album – it’s actually two 12″ singles, but the total playing time is almost an album. Actually the 2×12″ format is superb because the sound is better, especially with music like this.
It represented an interesting transition for the Cabs, between the obstinately experimental sound of their earlier records (like Nag Nag Nag) and the more commercial sound they’d later embrace. So it has that heavy industrial sound and chanted lyrics they were known for but with dancefloor friendly bass heavy riffs. At over 8 minutes per side they’re perhaps a bit long, but it works for me.
It is apparently the soundtrack to a video called Gasoline In Your Eye which I’ve never seen. My copy is mispressed – according to Discogs all the UK copies were, so I’ve corrected the tagging to reflect what is actually playing rather than what the label says. I’ve sequenced them in the order they appear on the cover.
Rough Trade 1979. RT 018
This is the Cabs second single, ripped from an original 7″. Nag Nag Nag is relentlessly lo-fi, both in terms of the gear they used and the recording, but it works really well. I’m not enough of a techie to say much about it, but to my ears it sounds like the most primitive drum machine imaginable, although I guess in 1979 there was nothing else available, with other backing from crude electronics which sound to me very home made. The vocals are similarly lo-fi – they sound as though they’re coming through a megaphone with flat batteries. In a way it reminds me of watching the original series of Star Trek – a vision of the future which never came to pass. It’s a deeply weird record, but Nag Nag Nag is also a great tune.
The B side, as the title suggests is 5 minutes of pointless noodling, made bearable by more retro sounds and, surprisingly the copious vinyl crackle which is largely absent on the A side.
Touch, TO:23 1994
More Sheffield electronic goodness today, this time from Richard H Kirk’s most significant alias, Sandoz. Kirk is best known as a founder member of the mostly excellent Cabaret Voltaire (See this post for an early Cabs track), so his importance in electronic music is beyond question.
This album doesn’t have the hard edged industrial feel of much of Cabaret Voltaire’s best output; it has elements of dub which have been developed further in subsequent releases but it keeps the otherwordly quality which drew me to the Cabs in the first place.
More music? Well his new dub album on Soul Jazz is a storming realisation of ideas he’s been playing with for a while.