Christopher Owens ♯ “You're not free now but unfolding and you're beautiful in the light/You're not free now, you're not innocent/You're transparent and you're right.” - The Angels of Light.
With the sad death of Cabaret Voltaire’s Richard H.Kirk, part of this month’s column will focus on Cabaret Voltaire.
Military Shadow – Violent Reign
The Japanese metalpunks return with a 12’. Beginning with ‘Shadow of Fallen Soldiers’ a tribal, mid-paced number which gradually adds a layer of noise on top, we get an EP of two halves: one focusing on the crustier side of the band (with a touch of Thin Lizzy in some of the solos) and the frantic metalpunk which we all know and love. It’s a nice experiment, and taster for the next LP. Bring it on! The EP can be streamed and purchased here.
Kowloon Walled City – Piecework
For their first album since 2015’s ‘Grievances’, Scott Evans and co. have given us a record that muses on the resilience needed for the modern world, which is particularly poignant considering Evans’ father died not long before the album was recorded. Musically, it straddles a fine line between crunching heaviness and sparse, lush and evocative melodies. It’s only 31 minutes long but will take you to another mindset. The album can be streamed and purchased here.
QOHELETH – Warmonger
Described by the band as an attempt to explore “…the American love affair with violence…”, this release sees the band throw in jazzy beats, scuzzy, noisy guitars, post punk basslines, disorientating patterns and poetry that draws links with religious fundamentalists and the violence of war and everyday life. A tough, abrasive listen that doesn’t throw its listeners a bone but those who get it will appreciate nothing else afterwards. The album can be streamed and purchased here.
Orrin De Forest - Harshcore 98-00
Remembered for a split release with Jazzfinger, this is a comp that will hopefully trigger a reappraisal of Orrin De Forest. Comprising of two recordings (1998 and 2000 respectively), it’s interesting to hear the progression from a noisy, grindy hardcore band with some experimental edges to something a little jazzier, post rock and (dare I say) screamo. If you’re interested in UK hardcore, you need this. Full stop. The comp can be streamed and purchased here.
Wish – Adapt or Die
Made up of members from Malice at the Palace, Diamond Back, Point Blank, and Twisted Dream, this record was conceived and recorded during lockdown. And it’s apparent, thanks to the gnarly, face ripping riffage fused by thrash and hardcore and the breakdowns which just ooze violence and resentment while songs like ‘No Masters’ even delve into G-funk style hip hop! Not exactly reinventing the wheel but an invigorating listen. The EP can be streamed and purchased here.
The Voice of America
Although Red Mecca is often cited as the finest CV album from this period, The Voice of ... knocks it to second place due to having an atmosphere that manages to be both oppressing and psychedelic (quite a feat, I'm sure you'll agree). Opening with a sample of a policeman setting the rules for his men, followed by some trippy sounding beats and heavily distorted vocals, this is probably the Cabs' most industrial album, with songs referencing control, lost souls in the system and the horror of modern entertainment. Killer cover as well.
Hai! (Live in Japan)
Like most industrial acts, CV thrived in the live arena. Here, they could tweak songs to make them more violent, overload the senses with noise and batter you into submission with a mass of cut up video footage as a backdrop. This live album from 1982 does a sterling job of capturing the Cabs at a crossroads, pushing the heavy funk into the mix while still retaining the experimental outlook. 'Over and Over' feels like an obscene phone call, while 'Diskono' pulsates with radioactivity.
Their highest charting album, and the first without Chris Watson, The Crackdown is a perfect example of how an alternative act can modify their sound for the mainstream without ever diluting the original message. Mal's vocals are no longer cloaked in distortion, but his whispery, accusatory tone fuels the paranoid vibes of '24-24', 'Crackdown' and 'Over and Over' while the overwhelming sound of earlier years is stripped back for something a little funkier but no less foreboding.
Groovy, Laidback and Nasty
Long regarded as a misstep, retrospective listening finds Groovy...to be an enjoyable house influenced record (produced by house pioneer Marshall Jefferson) that, while admittedly far removed from CV's remit, reflects the E-fuelled positivity of the time. Kirk may have sniped at Mal that he sounded like Phil Collins, and the likes of Al Jourgensen and Steve Albini aghast that CV were seeking to be influenced by people who were influenced by them, but tracks like 'Hypnotised', 'Keep On', 'Searchin' and 'Minute by Minute' are great pop/house songs that have aged better than one would expect.
Now free from a major label, the Cabs were free to indulge their fascination with the burgeoning techno scene. While Mal's involvement seems to have been minimal, Kirk steps up to the plate with a record that harks back to the psychedelic influences of the early years. Although clearly a trial run for the late career highlight 'The Conversation', tracks like 'Taxi Mutant' (a redo of 1983's 'Taxi Music' from the Johnny Yesno soundtrack which turns the noir influenced original into something that is all encompassing and uplifting) are too good to ignore.
⏩ Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist.