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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Cabaret Voltaire: International Language


1) Everything Is True; 2) Radical Chic; 3) Taxi Mutant; 4) Let It Come Down; 5) Afterglow; 6) The Root; 7) Millenium; 8) Belly Of The Beast; 9) Other World.

More sophisticated techno from the now-obscure couple who just refuse to quit. There are some significant differences from last time around: apparently, «international language» means saying goodbye to some of the more «acid» excesses and concentrating upon grooves, loops, and sam­ples of a smoother, softer variety, with high-pitched, chime-like frequencies largely replacing the squeaky-squelchy burps of Plasticity. In layman terms, this means that International Language is not so much going to kick your ass as it's going to pat you on it, although the whole thing is still much too dark and grumpy to bring in the «sexiness» of Groovy, Laidback And Nasty (and thank God for that!).

On the grand scale of things, this changes nothing: as background muzak for huge electronica fans, there's no problem with the album, but miracles are not going to happen, and chances of any of these tunes to linger on in your head once they have performed their applied function seem rather ephemere. I like the attention to detail — for instance, the mechanism of slowly «breeding» the techno groove of ʻEverything Is Trueʼ as it grows out of some musique concrète, generating all of its overdubbed samples before the rhythmic base is properly established; however, once it is properly established, it just becomes a generic techno dance number. I also suppose that ʻRadical Chicʼ might be an actual tribute to Chic — I'm not sure if they sample any Chic material here, but the track sure sounds the way a proper techno cover of Chic should sound — and that is probably creative, but techno reinventions of disco oldies are not really my thing (I usually have to come up with excuses for why I like this or that particular disco song, and I'd have to come up with twice the number of said excuses for a disco-techno hybrid).

ʻLet It Come Downʼ is a little reminiscent of the old days, with a very thick, very grumpy-soun­ding bassline, rhythmic industrial clanging in the background and a pseudo-brass riff from a spy movie rotating in the background — if not for the relentless techno punch and the lack of de­pressive guitar drones, you'd almost mistake it for a leftover from the old days, and I'd love to see it torn out of this context and placed on a more impressive album as a moody instrumental inter­lude. However, apart from it and maybe the cute combination of the surreptitious-subtle funky bassline and «hooting owl» gimmick of ʻBelly Of The Beastʼ, nothing else truly stands out. So when we get to the finale of ʻOther Worldʼ, and the rhythmic base falls out, leaving us with no­thing but pure New Agey ambience of electronic swirls and distant echoes, the effect is a bit baffling — you mean to say that this was an artistic statement all along, not merely a collection of well-wrought grooves to help the blood flow?..

I suppose there should be an inevitable crack at the title here — something along the lines of «if this kind of techno is indeed supposed to represent ʻinternational languageʼ by default, I sure wish Mallinder and Kirk stuck to all things national» — but the album, like most of their late period efforts, is really not too bad, and it manages to preserve a tiny pinch of their unique identity. I'm pretty sure it could even appeal to major fans of electronic music, like a Susan Tedeschi album might appeal to major blues fans. I just can't get rid of the feeling that ever since CV switched over to electronics completely, they found themselves locked in this compromised state, where everything they'd do would work to some degree, but never to the degree of leaving a lasting imprint on the music genre. But who knows? Maybe in twenty years' time you'll see Internatio­nal Language reappraised as a lost masterpiece, and people will be ready to donate all of their Aphex Twin collection for a used copy. The Grand DJ works in mysterious ways.

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