CABARET VOLTAIRE: 2x45 (1982)
1) Breathe Deep; 2) Yashar; 3) Protection; 4) War Of Nerves (T.E.S.); 5) Wait And Shuffle; 6) Get Out Of My Face.
Actually, this, rather than Red Mecca, may be the band's most interesting contribution to the musical scene of the early Eighties. On this splice of two recording sessions, which was also the last CB album to feature Chris Watson as a member, the band shifts the balance over from the industrial / experimental shadings to the dance beats — this is a very club-oriented recording — without, however, toning down the overall gray weirdness of it all. The result is a return to their «shamanistic ritual» schtick, but in a more accessible and grappling way than ever before: six lengthy «art-dance» grooves which throw everything into the melting pot (funk, jazz, drone, Eastern influences, post-punk, industrial, you name it), and sort of get away with it.
Like Red Mecca, this here is the sound of a self-assured band that has, by and large, already found what it was looking for — and is now trying to prove to us that the search has not been in artistic vain. ʻBreathe Deepʼ has the skeleton of a modern electrofunk groove, but the shrill, dissonant wail of electronically treated guitars and wind instruments (not just saxes, but even a clarinet part!) is inherited from the band's avantgarde past and does a good job of creating an atmosphere of insane hustle-bustle: think Panic At The Factory or something like that. Totally danceable, but sonically ugly and depressing, even if the band's traditional weaknesses still show through (namely, any of these tracks would have had much more impact if they tried building up these atmospheres rather than spilling everything out at once).
There is a substantial element of diversity, too: after ʻBreathe Deepʼ, ʻYasharʼ crosses the Cabaret Voltaire aesthetics with Near Eastern rhythmic and melodic elements, then ʻProtectionʼ goes into a happier sort of dance music where funk-pop guitar riffs are being offset by mad sax wailings, then ʻWar Of Nervesʼ slows things down to allow for some fairly poisonous avantgarde-guitar pyrotechnics, and eventually it all culminates in the 13-minute long ʻGet Out Of My Faceʼ, the loudest and most brash part of the ritual, sort of this band's equivalent of the Velvets' ʻSister Rayʼ, only with a larger pool of equipment and a little more compassion for people's ears. All of these tracks are united by a single aesthetic style, but they have different sub-atmospheres, and this helps make the record cooler, though, honestly, it is still hard to get truly wowed by the experience. But at least with all these blaring saxes and guitar/synth interplay, you can't really argue that they are doing something that has since been rendered obsolete — 2x45 is a fairly unique mash-up of electronics, drone, and (not-so)-avantgarde jazz that is not afraid to cross genre borders without properly belonging to any of them.
Honestly, I believe it's difficult not to be at least somewhat impressed by the results achieved here. As dance music, 2x45 can only be of interest nowadays for retro-futuristic, steampunkish parties; but I think it still has a bit of «mind-opening» potential, particularly in the way it mixes live instruments with tape manipulation. And this is the first time, I believe, where I would actually grant a thumbs up rating to a Cabaret Voltaire album — not because I was emotionally and intellectually rewarded for making an effort, but rather because I didn't have to make too much of an effort to not be emotionally and intellectually rewarded, if you get my meaning here.