Cabaret Voltaire: Hypnotised

Parlophone | UK | CD | 1989 | CDR6227

Parlophone | UK | CD | 1989 | CDR6227

Cabaret Voltaire: Hypnotised UK CD5 [1989]

  1. Hypnotised [fon force mix]
  2. Hypnotised [daniel miller mix]
  3. Hypnotised [western works mix]

There was a fantastic comment on the recent Cabaret Voltaire post made yesterday by stellaVista championing my least favorite CV album, the divisive “Groovy, Laidback + Nasty” from 1990. Reading the well argued points made me think that it may be time for a re-assessment. Sometimes, albums get better with time and new experiences under the listener’s belt. Other times, a stinker won’t get any fresher [Ultravox, I’m looking in your direction]. I still have several singles that I had saved from that era so it was time to listen to them anew.

When “Hypnotised” first appeared, it was close to being a full-on shock to the system with the previously managing CV adopting the trendiest musical garb of the time; house music. At least they kept it local and got Robert Gordon of Fon Force to remix the single. There are still outré squelches of synth bass giving the track a touch of acid. Truth be told, I prefer acid house to the other variants I’m familiar with. The Fon Force mix has a few sonic weaknesses that are immediately apparent. I will cop to never liking the thin 808 drum machine sound that most of these tracks were built upon. Not when I had become used to more powerful rhythms in my CV. The other misstep was the inclusion of Italohouse piano lines. Sure, they’re sparing and in the background, but that has always been a sound that I have never cottoned to.

Other than that, the Fon Force mix is a pretty darned good House track, and for me to say that, is a statement. The mix is diverse and stimulating. I’ve heard House that far more boring than this. This would slot in well with House tracks by The Blow Monkeys, who were the only group that I liked during this contemporary period that managed to wear House style well. The Daniel Miller mix was weaker than the Fon Force mix. The lush synth pads aim for elegance and has CV ever been that? The middle eight sounds like some leftovers from “Black Celebration” shoehorned into the mix. Miller also emphasized the piano lines in the mix mores than Gordon did. The wailing backing vocals were also more to the fore on this mix, much to my disdain.

The real reason why I never sold off this single, was the band’s own Western Works mix. Though it is more reductive and repetitive than the other mixes here; two of the traits that usually turn me against House music, the production on the beatbox here was much more zesty than the plain vanilla House proffered on the other two mixes. I missed Mal’s voice, but not hearing the mediocre lyrics worked to make the track stronger for me. Plus the acid factor was turned up considerably here, which was certainly a plus in my book. That piano was still a problem, though. The treatment on the backing vocals sounded more CV to my ears as well.

This single was a shot across my warning bow though, back in late 1989 when it surfaced. The previous CV album for EMI was the awfully clean and clinical “Code” which was not an immediate win for my ears, though I eventually came around to looking it. It’s just that House music was euphoric in nature and I don’t know about you, but euphoria is the last emotion that comes to mind when I think of Cabaret Voltaire! The lyrics here didn’t help. This was CV trying to be a club band that normal people would dance to socially, which when I write those words down, seem absolutely ludicrous. The political had been abandoned for the personal and that to me gutted CV of their strongest trait; their unceasingly political lens through which they viewed everything.

Going back to Blow Monkeys, I had less of a struggle moving through their songs of jazz/soul/pop through to their house or world music periods. They also managed to keep a political edge on what were euphoric House tracks quite capably, even as they had some songs that were not overtly political. The difference was that Blow Monkeys were not an iconic band to me like Cab Volt were. I love them both, but only one of them is a seminal musical influence in my world.  Given than CV were among the first bands to focus on the control process as their subject matter, much to my delight, their abandonment of their dissection of the powers that be for fleeting pleasure on the dance floor was jarring and incorrect. This, more than anything, colored my disdain for this era even as I admit that the Fon Force mix was better than I remembered!

Next: …Keep On

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3 Responses to Cabaret Voltaire: Hypnotised

  1. Echorich says:

    Nope, I just re-listened to all these mixes and am further convinced that Mal and Kirk lost the plot. I was hoping that I might find some subversive undercurrent which I hadn’t found before, but again I just feel like CV was aping Psychic TV who had a much better handle on the subversive/sub-culture aspect of Acid House. Hypnotised is about as harmless as Fine Time by New Order (NO’s most disappointing track in my mind) – and the Fon Force remix sounds like a concerted effort to sound just like that song. Just compare any of the Hypnotised remixes to the Extended 12″ mix of I Want You from 1985 and you hear EVERYTHING that’s missing. CV should be urgent and skirting the razor’s edge, not floating in a soft sea of synth. And is it me or do the vocals sound like Green Gartside? Of note, the song was a collaboration with Chicago House heavy weights Ten City – who I really love and who also worked with The Blow Monkeys on their This Is Your Life single. Those backing vocals are by Byron Stingily – Ten City’s lead vocalist.
    I am a card carrying member of the Soulful/Deep House Nation. I can spend hours escaping into House rhythms and vocals, but the bandwagon jumping that so many British artists participated in in the late 80s and early 90’s didn’t do either them or the genre many favors.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Righteous, sir! I know we don’t see eye-to-eye on the House phenomenon, but on this, we can agree: CV was a bad fit for the smooth [pun intended] clothes of House. More on Mal’s vocal transformation in tomorrow’s post! And spot on for the New Order “Fine Time” comparison. All the greats got sucked into the tar pit of House along with every also-ran, and fifth rate pop star – which was the most horrifying aspect of it. While there were House tracks I liked, the distinctions between those I liked and those I didn’t [the vast majority] was exceedingly fine. House was a coat of paint crudely applied to one and all for several long years and I quickly grew sick of it.

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      • Echorich says:

        Your’s is a sentiment I have heard for years. I will tell you that my move toward house music is very much a reaction to what I saw as the death of Rock & Roll, well at least the Rock & Roll I supported by the late 80’s. Post Punk was all but buried. Most of the bands I supported were broken up or releasing increasingly sub-par material. Pop music was once again a cookie cutter phenomenon. Even Goth (read – real, British Goth), which I had been flirting with for much of the 80’s was becoming very one note. The only sounds which were interesting to me were coming from House music out of NYC, Chicago and Detroit and Acid Jazz from London. As a music collector, the focus I put on these two genres had me delving deep into independently, indie released material which like Punk and Post Punk before it quickly became obsessive. There were months where I didn’t buy a cd or cd single and all my money was going to 12″ vinyl which I would measure in depth of the inches each new record back had. NYC was a goldmine for vinyl dance music still and clerks and store dj’s were happy to turn me on to new sounds and artists.
        Soon I saw how House was seeping into the pages of NME and Melody Maker and I knew that as with all other forms of culture, The Brits would soon be co-opting House for their own purposes. It’s a known fact that island cultures rely on the importation of culture, fashion and social ideas to keep their own societies strong. What came out of the Rave and Balearic/Ibiza Scenes of 87 -90 though was difficult for me to come to terms with. Sure there were some interesting developements – 808 State, The Beloved and The Shamen were very high on my favorites list of the time, but there was just so much junk passing itself off as House that I basically ignored the British House scene until the late 90’s in favor of the fertile grounds of NY/NJ, Chicago and Detroit.

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