Seminal Single: Cabaret Voltaire – Sensoria

Virgin | UK | 12″ | 1984 | CVS 312

Cabaret Voltaire: Sensoria UK 12″ [1984]

  1. Sensoria [12″ remix]
  2. Cut The Damn Camera

I was fortunate enough to have heard Cabaret Voltaire from the point of their second album, “Voice Of America.” Their 1980 album really opened my ears to the more avant possibilities inherent in unpopular music, as it were. Their use of found audio collage, overlaid with a deliberate moral ambiguity atop their primitivistic, rhythmic, industrial grooves was inspiring to me and yet I only sampled the occasional Cab Volt record until I heard this record, and the coin dropped, as it were. I had bought “2×45” and “Eddie’s Out” from their Rough Trade period, but that was all. After hearing this, I rode the Cab Volt horse, but hard. It didn’t throw me until the band transitioned to their house phase [“Groovy, Laidback + Nasty”] where they lost me, but good!

I happened to see the video for this track on TV. I can’t recall if it was either Night Flight, Snub-TV or perhaps London Calling, but it hit like a bolt from the blue. The juxtaposition of an authoritarian preacher intoning the gospel of absolute servitude to one’s betters with slamming industrial beats 80 feet tall as well as a chorus of African women singing backing vocals was pretty singular at the time. The deeply insinuating vocals of Stephen Mallinder added their usual sinister appeal; all the moreso since Mallinder used only his phrasing to ratchet up the sense of menace in the music. Lesser bands in Cab Volt’s wake would pioneer what I called “ogre music” and rely on vocals run through FX and distortion pedals to attempt to achieve what came to Mallinder naturally [and subtly].

Unlike their avant garde trio phase on Rough Trade, the “imperial phase” of Cabaret V0ltaire coincided with the band being signed to Virgin through Stevo’s Some Bizzare label with the earlier year’s album “The Crackdown” being the harbinger of a new period of industrial funk for the band that saw them making me very happy indeed with each new release. Like their Sheffield pals Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh of Heaven 17, Mallinder and his cohort Richard Kirk sought to meld avant garde electronics with soul and funk influences; but what made them diverge significantly from the path that Heaven 17 ultimately took was their allegiance to Burroughsian cut-up technique. Their willingness to juxtapose content that was not necessarily related in order to create a “third mind” scenario that was richly evocative for its unplanned randomness.

In that way, this single itself was a sterling example of an early mashup. The track is actually fabricated from two different Cabaret Voltaire songs off of their “Micro-Phonies” album on 1984: “Sensoria” and “Do Right.” The album versions of each bear some resemblance to this 12″ single, but the remix by John Potoker [with uncredited sonic glue courtesy of Robin “M” Scott] is a thing of wonder. A rare musical example of a whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Relentlessly pounding machine energy is given an injection of funk and ironic reactionary commentary via the preacher, who by giving a sermon on obeying your superiors, plays right into Cab Volt’s fascination with exposing and disrupting the control process. The result is a dancefloor devastator and an example of the “industrial music” ethos the band trailblazed with Throbbing Gristle for over a decade before it reached the point of slickness that is evidenced here. The point where Cabaret Voltaire became a genre unto them selves with many followers in their wake of the NIN and Skinny Puppy ilk.

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About postpunkmonk

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5 Responses to Seminal Single: Cabaret Voltaire – Sensoria

  1. Echorich says:

    I think Sensoria 12″ is still one of the most exciting and disturbing things I own. Sure there is more in your face hard beat music out there, but the sinister aspect to Mallinder’s vocals and the density of the rhythm is pretty much unmatched.


  2. ronkanefiles says:

    I had no idea about the Robin Scott involvement. One needed the video to get this message, I suspect.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      ronkanefiles – Scott had to go uncredited due to record company politics.


      • Echorich says:

        Robin Scott has been present for and on the fringes of many music scenes since the 60’s. He did the folk thing at the time of John Martyn and David Jones/Bowie, was a compatriot of McLaren and Westwood as far back as the early 70’s if not earlier, released the first Adam and the Ants records on his own label, and of course release that “bridge” classice Pop Muzik linking the 70’s Disco/Pop era with the emerging New Wave. He’s known as a master in the studio and has always had a lot of record company cred thus finding himself involved with a lot of emerging bands of the era.


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