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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Cabaret Voltaire: Hai!


1) Walls Of Kyoto; 2) 3 Days Monk; 3) Yashar (version); 4) Over & Over; 5) Diskono; 6) Taxi Music (version).

The strange fascination of Cabaret Voltaire with live albums is explainable in two ways: (a) much of their material was actually developed on the stage, and some of it even never left the stage (Hai! is a good illustration — three of its songs would only be released in studio versions after the album, and two more are only available on the album); (b) they actually believed that music properly «happens» as interaction between performer and audience, so that it's better to release a poor quality live album than a glossed-up studio tape. Well, sometimes, at least.

Stylistically, Hai! is very close to 2x45, but with one major difference: in place of Chris Watson, the band now features Alan Fish, trading in their «tape manipulator» for a real live drummer. The difference is impossible not to notice — particularly when you listen to the old and the new ʻYasharʼ back-to-back; the song now features fewer electronic effects, but a wild tribal beat all the way through. What is better? What is closer to the «true» Cabaret Voltaire spirit? Impossible to tell for me, since my connection to the band is not really on an emotional level; but at least for the sakes of a live show, I'd say the choice of a live drummer is a wise one.

All the other songs, too, feature expectable danceable grooves with dark-gray overtones, similar in mood, tempo, and tone; the only standout is ʻ3 Days Monkʼ, because of the wah-wah enhanced bassline — letting out an angry croak that is different from (and somehow feels a little more per­sonal and communicative than) all the regular dance grooves. I guess that ʻTaxi Musicʼ is also a standout due to its sheer length (although the studio recording would be even longer), but since it does not depart too much from its starting points, 11 minutes is just asking for trouble.

The bass groove can even be poppy if they wish: ʻWalls Of Kyotoʼ opens the album with a part that could be usable for every fast-moving song from Joy Division to U2, and maybe even well beyond that particular time span. But that does little to change things, as the guitars and key­boards still continue to churn out «sonic muck» more than anything else, and the only reason why Mallinder spits out those bits and pieces of broken vocals is to raise the aggression/paranoia bar. Nevertheless, the rhythm section is so tight throughout that your innate sense of rhythm might eventually placate your confused sense of melody. I do know at least this about myself — that every time ʻDiskonoʼ comes on, that simple, repetitive bassline gets me every time. In short, I give the record a thumbs up — not on an emotional level, but on some sort of primal level it has that old shamanistic charm, only this time the shamans exercise a bit more self-discipline.

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