It was sometime in 1984 that I crossed over from being interested in Sheffield’s pioneering Cabaret Voltaire to being obsessed with them. The spark that pushed me over the edge was seeing their brain-melting video for “Sensoria” on “Night Flight” and after that I went out and bought everything I could get my hands on, following my casual fandom from the point of their 1980 album “Voice Of America” until that time. The group had evolved into a far more commercial entity with their twitchy cut-up aesthetic transferred from found sound and tape splicing to beatbox driven synth funk, enabled by sampling. I quickly got their mandatory 12″ singles and the “Micro-Phonies” album and was shocked to see that 1985 bought a further bounty in the form of “Drinking Gasoline.”
Cabaret Voltaire: Drinking Gasoline US 2×12″ 
- Big Funk
This 2×12″ was an odd duck for the American market, which didn’t usually supports such exotic variants. Unlike their previous Virgin releases after leaving Rough Trade, this was licensed to Virgin’s Caroline Records subsidiary in The States. This was about a year before Virgin re-ignited their brand as a domestic label following inconclusive experiments in back in the dawn of the 80s with Atlantic distributing their goods.
This was self-produced following their previous breakthrough album that saw Flood co-producing and John Potoker remixing the mighty “Sensoria.” At first, I thought this was a step backward, but that’s before I was beginning to see the light! Since then, I’ve come to see this as a peak period for the band with an aesthetic that was simultaneously high tech and lowdown at the same time; ideally suiting their thematic concerns.
“Kino” was the “single” here but there was never to my knowledge and 7″ edits of this material. As was common to Cab Volt, they favored eight minute 12″ mixes and all of the tracks here vary from 7:59 to 8:28. Rubbery synth bass sequences were stitched together with actual funk basslines courtesy of Stephen Mallinder. The skittery beatbox adds nervous tension and Malinder’s virulent vocals are shockingly dry and intimate. Squirts of proto-acid synth were shot through the mix over repetitive sequences of eighth notes that were reminiscent of what former Rought Trade labelmates Scritti Politti were also cooking up at this time. But this was far from the Apollonian sleekness of the Arif Mardin Scritti funk. This was a defiantly sweaty and paranoid electro-funk on offer here. And it was magnificent. Funk for Germanic speed-freaks via Northern England.
The queasy yet malevolent synth leads of “Sleepwalking” pointed to earlier singles like “Just Fascination,” but the execution was more street-level here. The repetitive trance rhythms more compulsive and enervated. The minimal funk bass ganks add the desirable human element to the perverted rhythm box that otherwise dominated the rhythm bed. “Big Funk” lived up to its name with vocal sample of an emphatic “hunh” from some old, half-remembered funk record taken down an octave in pitch to gain a basso countenance. Malinder’s vocals here are doused in liquid reverb, unlike the first two tracks of this release. The stray sax courtesy of multi-instrumentalist Richard Kirk adds a perverse skronk element that they should have pursued further at this time. The idea of these guys incorporating more free jazz into their increasingly funky output is deeply exciting to me nearly 30 years later.
Cabaret Voltaire: Gasoline In Your Eye JAPAN βeta 
- Slow Boat to Thassos
- Big Funk
I was more than excited to see that the double 12″ mentioned that the cover images were stills from videos available on the band’s “Gasoline In Your Eye” video! No one had more exciting videos than Cab Volt and when the title showed up in the USS&M catalog, I ordered that puppy immediately on a Japanese NTSC βeta videocassette for immediate gratification. When it arrived, the tape contained videos for the four full length “Drinking Gasoline” tracks as well as two of the band’s crucial videos as directed by Peter Care earlier: “Crackdown” and the almighty “Sensoria.” For some reason, only “Sensoria” was in hi-fi stereo; every other clip on this compilation was in mono. Care was also responsible for “Big Funk” and “Kino” while the rest of the video was directed by the band.
The repetitive use of looped sequences in much of the material is visually analogous to the band’s sonic modus operandi, and it also insures that there is not a jarring break in quality between the self-direct clips and the Care pieces; barring the amazing cranework and editing on “Sensoria.” “Diffusion,” Slow Boat To Thassos,” “Automotivation” and “Fadeout” were, quixotically, songs that only appeared on this video album for many years. “Automotivation” appeared in 1990 on the “Listen Up With Cabaret Voltaire” compilation. “Slow Boat To Thassos” and “Diffusion” finally appeared in the amazing 2001 core dump of rarities “Conform To Deform.” “fadeout” remains unique to the video after all of these years.
Cabaret Voltaire: Drinking Gasoline UK CD 
- Big Funk
It was during my first trip to the incredible Sam The Record Man on Yonge Street in Toronto [there’s a rainbow in Toronto…] that I came across the UK CD of “Drinking Gasoline” for the one and only time in my life, so of course I bought it!! It’s a straight run of the vinyl tracks; no bonus tracks, but I could hardly care. That completed my Cab Volt “gasoline” hat trick quite nicely. Currently, Richard Kirk has released scads of Cab Volt as downloads, but the band’s Rough Trade and Virgin/Some Bizzare salad days remain digitally elusive. Strangely enough, their EMI period is readily available. Looks like they got a favorable deal on their masters when they signed with the big boys back in 1986.
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