A Young Person’s Guide To: Cabaret Voltaire – Drinking Gasoline/Gasoline In Your Eye

cv-kirkcv-corridorcv-gazecv-mal

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.”

Caroline Records | US | 2x12" | 1985 | CAROL 2451

Caroline Records | US | 2×12″ | 1985 | CAROL 2451

Cabaret Voltaire: Drinking Gasoline US 2×12″ [1985]

  1. Kino
  2. Sleepwalking
  3. Big Funk
  4. Ghostalk

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.

cabvolt---gasolinebeta

Virgin Video | JAPAN | Beta | 1985

Cabaret Voltaire: Gasoline In Your Eye JAPAN βeta [1985]

  1. Intro
  2. Crackdown
  3. Diffusion
  4. Sleepwalking
  5. Slow Boat to Thassos
  6. Sensoria
  7. Automotivation
  8. Big Funk
  9. Kino
  10. Ghostalk
  11. Fadeout

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.

Virgin | UK | CD | 1992 | CVMCD 1

Virgin | UK | CD | 1992 | CVMCD 1

Cabaret Voltaire: Drinking Gasoline UK CD [1992]

  1. Kino
  2. Sleepwalking
  3. Big Funk
  4. Ghostalk

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.

– 30 –

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15 Responses to A Young Person’s Guide To: Cabaret Voltaire – Drinking Gasoline/Gasoline In Your Eye

  1. JT says:

    Coincidentally, I spent some considerable time just two months ago looking for a digital copy of Gasoline in Your Eye, and to no avail. Ended up digitizing my 2nd generation VHS copy. Can’t believe this never got a DVD release.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      JT – What the world needs now… is a comprehensive Cab Volt eye-peeling video comp with everything on it! But five’ll get you ten that lawyers would prevent such a courtesy. You should have contacted me. I digitized my 1st gen Japanese Beta 7 years ago! It was the first thing I digitized when I got my G5 Pro. I think I still have spare test burns lying around! Strangely enough, I used to have a Telegenics VHS with “Kino” on it… in full glorious hi-fi stereo! Even more strange, it was their “urban” series vidcomp! So Cab Volt rubbed shoulders with Peabo Bryson, the Weather Girls, and Rick James. At least Rick was funky. I never saw a clip of theirs again after the incredible “I Want You” clip on “Night Flight” the next year! I think that’s my favorite video of all time.

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  2. jdrukman says:

    I know a lot of people really dig on the earlier noisier CV but for me this is the era where I really got on the train. I like my noise a little more organized.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      jdrukman – I like early, wilder Rough Trade CV just fine. “Voice Of America” perked my ears up to them. I bought “Eddie’s Out” on 12″ and dug it. Hearing the Some Bizzare era changed everything, though! I love mid period CV the mostest! They lost me with “Groovy, Laidback + Nasty.” I mean totally lost me! The only one after that I kept was “Body + Soul.” While techno, there was still Mallinder in the mix. And “Decay” was a last glimpse of the beast who recorded all of the Rough Trade material. All of that unreleased middle period material that has filtered out has been gold to me! They were so productive!!

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  3. Echorich says:

    Early Cabs are satisfying for their jackhammer groundbreaking. They were the hard edge of Sheffield but fit well into that city’s broad post punk landscape. I also really got into them with Sensoria, Crackdown, Just Fascination and James Brown. Things began to change with Yashar. It’s as Electro as New Order’s Confusion and really more akin to the NYC sound than their at the time label mates.
    I got the chance to meet Kirk & Mallinder in the late 80’s in NYC at the Limelight club. Stephen was really interested in the deep and techno house scene and I even suggested some club nights and dj’s he should check out. But I wasn’t all that impressed with Keep On and Easy Life which are very house influenced.

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  4. Echorich says:

    Oh and by the way, Ms. Billie Ray Martin’s reading of The Crackdown is just Brilliant!!

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – And how!!! Memo to self: buy the newly released physical CD of “The Crackdown Project!” I dare say Ms. BRM is reaching new heights with her awesome interpretation! And she got Mal out of academia and back into music, only to have him now in Foxx’s orbit!

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      • Echorich says:

        Oh if only Ms. BRM had kept Mr. William Orbit in her orbit…things may have turned out so different for her. That said I have NO complaints with the quality of her output over the decades. Someday I hope to walk into a dark cabaret in Berlin and find her singing under a solitary spotlight to me as I enter the room. There, got that out of my system.

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        • postpunkmonk says:

          Echorich – BRM and William Orbit? Prithee, tell me more!

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          • Echorich says:

            Now it may be just legend, actual material just never released, but around the time BRM released Persuasion with Spooky and was signed to Guerilla, I understand there was work on a solo album with Mr. Orbit. I have been in search of same for years. I’m told Mark Moore contributed as well and that there was a decidedly ambient feel to the recordings…I have two friends in the UK that have also been on the lookout for this material and have even accosted Mr. Orbit on one occasion regarding it…result…a smug “guess we may never know” sort of response.

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            • postpunkmonk says:

              Echorich – You are probably aware of my deep and abiding love for Torch Song as well as my casual indifference to anything else that Orbit has done. But BRM and Orbit collaborating would be up there in my pantheon as was the recent John Foxx + The Maths/OMD crossover! As for BRM, the other day I came across this on her blog:
              Billie Ray Martin cover collage
              When viewed at once, I’m reminded that she began her work at a very high standard; and proceeded to move upward from that point! I can honestly say that as much as I love E101, it just got better from there!

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        • postpunkmonk says:

          Echorich – The stinging irony was that this almost happened a few months ago! We weep for what did not occur.

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  5. Gavin says:

    My mum bought me the “Gasoline..” VHS when it came out and I bought the double 12″.
    Always loved both,though not yet acquired them on DVD/cd.The videos have always been mesmeric and at the time for a teenage music and video student they were very eye-opening.
    I also have a great VHS video from their Doublevison label called ‘Cabaret Voltaire presents…’ Featuring 14 tracks including an excerpt from ‘Johnny Yes No’ it’s a real gem with a superb Neville Brody inlay.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Gavin – My brain shuts down at the notion of a mother, any mother, buying her son a copy of “Gasoline In Your Eye!” Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course! In fact, it must stand in the upper 0.01% of things right with the universe! My own mother liked Blondie and The Cramps when I played them [far more than the Emerson Lake + Palmer that preceded them] but she certainly would have stopped short of buying me any Cab Volt!

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