The CD box set charts the development of Cabaret Voltaire, starting from their early experimental period of '74/'75. The package contains recordings made during the same period as those featured on the CD, "1974-76", released on Industrial Records in 1978 (and reissued by The Grey Area of Mute, 1992). Included on the release are original recordings of classics such as 'Nag Nag Nag', 'No Escape', 'The Set Up', 'Baader Meinhof', 'Here She Comes Now' and 'Do The Mussolini (Headkick)', all later re-recorded with new equipment and released by Rough Trade in the late '70s.
The material contained in the box set sounds incredibly fresh when played alongside some of the new generation of 'laptop experimentalists', especially considering that the recording technology was quite basic compared to that available today.
"METHODOLOGY '74-'78. Attic Tapes" is an invaluable insight into how the band evolved prior to, and during, the punk explosion, and how the music gradually took on a more structured and rhythmic form.
Cabaret Voltaire, who alongside Human League, Throbbing Gristle, Fad Gadget and The Normal, were at the forefront of the UK Electronic Movement of the late '70s and are one of the most truly influential and innovative acts of the last twenty five years.
For Cabs collectors and fans of their Industrial Records-era music, this collection is a dream come true. Three CDs of unreleased songs and early versions are compiled at a surprisingly cheap cost. From the earliest material on the first disc, the sound quality is amazingly clear. Songs here run the gamut from fully realized tunes to plenty of half-assed noodling. At no point, however, even for the most minimal noodlings, is it ever dull. This -is- entertainment. (Especially the walking jazz tune "The Single," where lyrics include "come on kids let's jive," "come on girls, slide your feet," and plenty of "doo-doo doo-doo"s!) A document like this is evidence that Sheffield's finest haven't always been depressing anti-establishmentalists. Furthermore, hearing the (then) trio of Kirk, Mallinder and Watson play around with sound effects and layered spoken word bits is actually far more interesting on record to hear than a lot of the modern classical sounds of electronic composers that seem to be surfacing by the bucketloads lately. The Cabs clearly had a pop mentality to match their anti-pop tendencies and kept songs relatively brief and to-the-point. At some point, however, the sound bursts become songs, the instruments become learned, the skills become perfected. Sure, there's probably plenty of attic tapes from many bands' youths floating around, but, by the sax, guitar and keyboard echoes of "Magnet," something really cool is taking place and we're fortunate to be able to get documentation. It's a lot of material to wade through (53 songs in all) and not all of it is stellar. For a collection which claims to be all previously unreleased recordings, the version of "Do the Mussolini (Headkick)" on disc two mysteriously sounds as if it was mastered from a record with clicks and skips. It might have made more sense to include these alternate versions on the recent Original Sound of Sheffield comp as things like "No Escape," "Here She Comes Now," and "Nag, Nag, Nag" don't sound much different and appear on numerous releases already. I'm also getting sick of the recycled Designers Republic format for Cab Volt reissue material: the printing in my booklet is dreadful, with bleeding blurry grey text that's next to impossible to read on the greyscale background imagesperhaps that's the point, but it's becoming a cheap cop-out. Furthermore, they keep listing web sites for Cabaret Voltaire that don't exist yet. This has been a trend since the late 1990s that continues to this day. The web site here at Brainwashed has remained the best web resource for all Cabaret Voltaire material and has not changed its URL since 1996, damnit! It's lame that they keep ignoring it for sites that aren't online! Okay, enough of my bitching, enjoy the four hours of great music and hope that things like Chance vs. Causality and other unreleased things are due out soon. - Jon Whitney