Cabaret Voltaire CD review [Superfecta]

Music Reviews
Cabaret Voltaire CD review [Superfecta]
Jun 3, 2003, 20:02

CABARET VOLTAIRE The Original Sound of Sheffield: Best of '83/'87 CD

Best Of is a collection of the final phase of Cabaret Voltaire's artistic development, wherein their transformation from ferocious purveyors of radical art to workmanlike pursuers of mainstream assimilation was completed.

Initially, Cabaret Voltaire was in the vanguard of avant-gardists attempting wily infiltration of dance music aesthetic principles. They'd correctly noted points of commonality—obtrusive beats, hypnotic repetition, and abandonment of narrative verse-chorus-verse structure in favor of more evolutionary processes, each song based on a particular conceptual conceit. The crucial point of departure was their allegiance to a “cut-up” technique expressed as sonic collage and montage. As they began the transition, they renovated various aspects of their original stylistic corpus, conforming to established dance music conventions to pull the overlaps further into sync.

The problem was that they didn't really respect or understand dance's unique artistic prerogatives as per the needs, motivations and provocation involved in the physical act of dancing, especially on a prolonged basis. They largely ignored any sense of dynamics, variation and juxtaposition to sustain involvement of the folks on the floor, not to mention anything approaching a killer hook. Having mongered a sturdy if slightly abstruse groove, they let it wind itself out without further ado.

In the meantime they'd abandoned the raucous, surprising textures of their original work, as well the most audacious of their collage/montage maneuvers. Those aspects of tape manipulation of found sounds approaching musique concrete or audio-verite style politically charged speechifying was relegated to a merely decorative, practically meaningless place.

Most of Best Of is neither fish nor fowl. None of it was horrible and much it was promising, but frustrating for consistently falling short of the mark. When originally released these songs did serve as a point of entry to dance music for the avant-garde and punk sets, but none have aged especially well. [Superfecta]

-Howard Wuelfing

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