Cabaret Voltaire: Keep On

Parlophone | IUK | CD5 | 1990 | CDR 6250

Parlophone | IUK | CD5 | 1990 | CDR 6250

Cabaret Voltaire: Keep On UK CD5 [1990]

  1. Keep On
  2. Keep On [western works mix]
  3. Keep On [clubbing]

When the second pre-release single from “Groovy, Laidback + Nasty” the paradigm shift that Cabaret Voltaire were undergoing as the 90s manifested became completely apparent. This was not your father’s Cabaret Voltaire! The fact that tracks one and three were mixed by PWL’s Phil Harding, speaks huge stone tablets as volumes! CV had been to the mountain [Chicago] and had brought the new gospel [House] to the people. And it was… troubling. When a group have honed their singular, unique, and always thrilling vision for as long as Kirk and Mallinder had by this time [16 years] only to have them adopt the same values that were frankly choking the UK music scene to death was dispiriting to say the least.

The 7″ mix of “Keep On” is actually a pretty good House-styled pop song. I’ve heard much worse. It’s just not a track that should have ever had the name “Cabaret Voltaire” on it. Because it’s not a CV song. It’s not about probing into the Veil of Maya that blinds our eyes to the manipulations of the power brokers of our society. It’s not a song about how desire can be turned malignant as it proffers a master we don’t even have the option of rebelling against as it lies within our DNA. “Just Fascination” examined fetish/desire as a cruelly rigid motivational force that was as absolute a master than The State could ever hope to be. This song seems to be about lovers and having fun. It just doesn’t cut it as CV.

The band’s own extended mix represented a huge sea change from the Western Works mix on their previous single. At least “Hypnotised” began to resemble CV on their own mix. This one, by comparison, sounds not appreciably different front he Phil Harding 7″ mix. It’s the sound of CV saying that they don’t have to sound rough or harsh if they want to. The flute patches sound nice over the bass sequences, but when should Cab Volt ever sound nice?

The mostly instrumental clubbing mix by Harding had Mallinder cut from the program, with Lorita [Colourbox] Graham’s backing vocals brought to the fore. That’s telling, because this song is so benign that it could have been easily handed off to any ex-soap star in the PWL stable to similar effect. In fact, one thing that struck me for the first time while listening to this is that Mallinder’s vocals are deliberately sung in an upper register to a feminine effect. Commenter Echorich mentioned in a comment yesterday that he thought he was trying to sound like Green Gartside from Scritti Politti and I certainly hear where he was coming from. He’s just a hair’s breadth away from the breathiness that Green favors, but otherwise, he’s hitting pretty close to the mark.

After this single, I didn’t bother with the album that eventually came. Like I mentioned, a friend bought it, disliked it, gave it to me, then I gave it back for her to trade in. It was only fair. Afterward, CV moved away from House to Techno formats that rendered the band largely sterile and faceless to me. The presence of Stephen Mallinder in the mix following the next two releases, “Colours” and “Body + Soul,” was sharply reduced to nil, but given the banality of material like “Smooth,” the net result might have been a slight improvement.

I bought and sold off “Colours.” I still have “Body + Soul” for the single, brief instrumental track “Decay” that is the last full flowering of the CV ethos as defined during their Rough Trade period. That is horribly shows up the other 95% of the album is sad, but it’s enough for me to hold onto. I could not say the same for the 1992 Plasticity” album which was in effect a Richard Kirk solo album. Kirk may have been responsible for 85% of the music in Cab Volt, but I maintain that Mallinder was responsible for 85% of the soul. I’ve not touched anything that Kirk has released int he years since that time, but I am eager to obtain the new Wrangler album that features Mallinder’s singing. It was great hearing him again on the recent mixes by Billie Ray Martin [“The Crackdown Project”] and John Foxx + The Maths [“Shatterproof”] where I found that I’d missed his work more than I’d expected to in retrospect.

– 30 –

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9 Responses to Cabaret Voltaire: Keep On

  1. stellaVista says:

    I was actually never aware of the fact that Lorita Grahame was featured on the song! I absolutely adore her and it´s a shame that she disappeared with Colourbox.

    I listened to GL&N yesterday and understand all of your (and the other commentators) negative feelings towards it. Admittedly some of Kirks vocals are absolutely cringe worthy and this should have probably never been released as an Cabaret Voltaire album.

    But as someone who loves the sound of the 808 and as a first hour fan of the whole bleep and clonk sound that happened at the time, there is still much to like for me here.
    Especially the last two tracks “Easy Life” and the Kraftwerk-y “Rescue Me (City Lights)” were/are right up my street.

    The thing is: as a non-native english listener CV never make it easy to get their lyrics. Mallinder is very hard to understand and the lyrics tend to be very obscure. I always thought that the feeling of dread and menace they provoked in me were exactly what they were trying to achieve.

    Is there a source of CVs lyrics and maybe some interpretations about their body of work to be found on the net?

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      stellaVista – Sometimes an 808 can sound good to me. It depends on the context. For example I really enjoyed seeing the electro of Egyptian Lover at Moogfest 2014 and he is all about the 808! Most of his set was freestyling with the 808 and a synth player. I also had the “Easy Life” CD single back in the day, but it did not mass any muster with me, so I sold it off quickly. You hit the nail on the head in regards to releasing this album under a different name. In retrospect, that is so clearly what should have happened. Maybe as a Jefferson/Kirk/Mallinder project album it would have made more sense. As it was, it stuck out like a sore thumb in the CV canon. Here’s Kirk on GL+N:

      “I always preferred the more spartan whispery vocals. Then Mal moved away from that and started getting into singing which I didn’t feel was right. There was this nagging notion that it didn’t feel like the Cabs when Mal deliberately decided to sing on ‘Laidback’. No, it didn’t. It started to sound more like Phil Collins which was very disturbing.” – Richard Kirk

      Brainwashed have some good CV pages in their site [it’s where the quote came from]. Back in the 90s, I bought the 2nd. ed. of “Art Of The Sixth Sense: Cabaret Voltaire” book by M. Fish + D Hallbery. It’s a recommended read but no lyrics are printed in it.

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  2. stellaVista says:

    Oh, and I forgot: The Wrangler album sounds pretty good to my ears.

    Since Echorich brought up the Jack The Tab/PTV house excursions from 1988: Are you guys aware of Kirks acid house project Wicky Wacky from that year?…well, I´m sure you are…

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      stellaVista – Richard Kirk has enough solo releases under dozens of alternative names, that I could probably spend the rest of my life compiling them. I was never motivated to, though. The Wrangler album is definitely pencilled in since Benge is a talent to watch.

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      • stellaVista says:

        Ha, that quote is quite seething! I wonder if they parted ways in bad blood?
        I will check out the brainwashed link. Thanks!

        A “warning” about the Wrangler album: There is one track (Lava Land) which features Mal´s voice with your “beloved” OGRE-effect ;)
        Have you heard the album Mal did with this guy from Fila Brazillia as “Hey, Rube!”?
        I quite like it.

        As for the prolific Mr. Kirk: I own tons of his stuff and when I decide to listen to it I tend to listen to nothing else for a few days.
        I would recommend his two albums he released under his own name on WARP. I think that “Virtual State” is an absolute masterpiece! But it not be your cup of tea.
        I also love his output as Sandoz and Sandoz in dub (the latter is the definition of “digital rasta”)

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        • postpunkmonk says:

          stellaVista – Thanks for the warning on Wrangler! A little vocals through the distortion pedal can go a long way, but the track where that war first done in 1969 [“21st Century Schizoid Man”] is my favorite King Crimson track, so there you are.

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  3. Echorich says:

    Well Keep On was the deal breaker for me. This really was a Jefferson/Kirk/Mallinder project. I didn’t even attempt to listen to either Kirk or Mallinder for the next decade, and have been really spartan in what I have investigated of their solo/collaboration project work since.
    I will give Richard Kirk some props for following his muse and not really looking backwards, but not much of his post CV output has really interested me.
    While Mallinder has kept some of the CV sound and ethos alive over the years, he has been pretty focused on those projects he gets involved with. The BRM Crackdown Project injects some interesting dynamics thanks to Ms. Martin Teutonic values. The Wrangler collaboration pleases me on so many levels. Benge is a force to be reckoned with and someone who should be having artist banging down his door to work with him.
    StellaVista – the Wickey Wacky work is SO much more ACTUAL acid house than anything on GL+N!! I never quite got what anyone thought was acid house about the album, but by 1990, “acid house” was an abused term. The album is purely smooth Chicago house with little to know bleep content to give it an “acid tinge.” For real acid house I think of Chicago – Tyree’s Acid Crash or Armando’s Fall Down. The British Acid Scene never really as pure and other styles quickly mixed into the acid house sound. Acid house definitely strengthened the Rave Culture though and that was a true phenomenon.

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    • stellaVista says:

      Echorich – I absolutely agree with you on Acid House as a term and style and that GL+N is no such thing. I still remember to this day that a mate -who worked in a record store- and me used to joke in december of ´88 that we would declare Acid House as officially over by new years eve. It was amazing when it began, but it went downhill so fast. I don´t know about the USA, but in Germany the commercialisation was so instant and ridicolous. We joked about hanging the crates withe the ACID records in his shop a bit higher every day. The plan was that by new years eve nobody would be able to reach them anymore and we´d just keep them hanging there forever. Still an amzing idea!

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      • Echorich says:

        It always amazed me how Acid House so quickly evolved into Hip House – a cross pollenation with terrible results. Acid house creators from Chicago to London jumped on the bandwagon to add childish rap lyrics to very average house tracks. It was at this point that my house music of choice became what would be known as deep and soulful house.

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