Caberet Voltaire at their grittiest and most experimental.
Two reissues from the earliest moments of the Cabaret Voltaire catalog reveal the band in their original line-up of Stephen Mallinder, Richard H. Kirk and Chris Watson at their grittiest and most experimental, three Sheffield lads in an attic channeling their influences and on their way to crafting a heady mixture of glitchy noise and rhythm. The first of these, Methodology ’74/’78: The Attic Tapes, was first released on cassette in 1980 by Throbbing Gristle’s Industrial Records, and issued again on CD by Mute Records in 1992 as part of The Grey Area’s program of Cabaret Voltaire reissues.
Now, this 53-track collection is available digitally and in a limited edition seven-disc colored vinyl box set and compiles audio experiments, tape loops and equipment try-outs in what is an endearing collection but, perhaps, one best intended for the completists. There’s lots to enjoy across the collection, especially the playfulness that creeps into hearing with tracks like “The Possibility of a Bum Trip” where some kind of speech-distorting effect is being tested on a series of spoken word pieces, and “Jack Stereo Unit” where, again, spoken word pieces are overlapped and manipulated. “Makes Your Mouth Go Funny,” “Jive” and “Loves in Vein” are all experiments in addition where rhythms and song structures are being tried out, showing the band at their most obviously song-oriented and easily more interesting than many of their contemporaries. The three different “Dream Sequence” pieces all suggest the kinds of work that would resurface on the soundtrack to Johnny Yesno, while “Fuse Mountain” summons the kinds of spectral woodwinds Kraftwerk were manipulating on their first two albums. Amongst these, Methodology ’74/’78: The Attic Tapes collects earlier versions of Cabaret Voltaire’s first singles “Do the Mussolini (Headkick)” and “Nag Nag Nag,” along with draft versions of songs that would appear on Mix-Up and The Voice of America.
Alongside this heavyweight box set, Mute Records has also issued the legendary and long-lost “Chance Versus Causality” score, originally recorded in 1979 to accompany director Babeth Mondini’s film of the same name. The 47-minute score, broken into seven distinct “parts,” and now available digitally and on double colored vinyl, was improvised live by the original Cabaret Voltaire lineup and, as with many of the pieces collected in the Attic Tapes set, noisy soundscapes with flutters of rhythm, manipulated voices and bursts of synthesized sound dominate. Famously, the score was composed without the band having seen the film and without any direction from Mondini. Upon completion the two reels of tape that contained the sole recorded version were sent off and, until this release, the closest a fan could get was a brief excerpt included as a B-side to the 1979 single “Silent Command.” The overall effect of the soundtrack is just as playful and disruptive as many of the pieces included in the substantive collection but the focus on a distinct and singular visual accompaniment means that there’s a direction, a hint of accretion and a movement towards some kind of definitive conclusion (even if the band weren’t exactly aware of what it was their noises were meant to accompany).
Of the two releases, Chance Versus Causality is perhaps the one that most works as a listening experience but both releases are crucial documents in the history of this still-important band and it’s a treat to hear the early experiments on Attic Tapes alongside the draft versions of the early singles and album tracks.