"The whole Afghanistan situation was kicking off.Iran had the American hostages...We were taking notice. It kind of culminated with 'Red Mecca'. It's not called that by coincidence. We weren't referencing the ****ing Mecca ballroom in Nottingham!", richard h. kirk re-quoted in 'Rip It Up & Start Again' (Faber, 2005) Cabaret Voltaire had been round several years already, building on their blend of electronica, dub & avant rock they had already released several classics - 'Nag Nag Nag', 'Baader Meinhof', 'The Set Up', 'This is Entertainment', 'No Escape', 'Do the Mussolini', & their distinctive cover of the Velvets' 'Here She Comes Now.' The 'Living Legends' & 'Original Sound of Sheffield' compilations sum up these formative years well. By 1979, the Sheffield three-piece were moving onto another theme, the world zeitgeist centred on the Middle East (Afghanistan,the Iranian revolution, assassinations in Egypt, the Iran hostage crisis, the US backed invasion of Iran by Iraq) were feeding into things (see the documentary 'The Power of Nightmares') and the Cabs' found themselves enamoured with the dark rise of Reagan and the Christian right in America - single 'Sluggin' for Jesus' pre-empting the preacher-samples of 'My Life in the Bush of Ghosts' by a year and the theme of the Shamen's 'Jesus Loves Amerika' by nine years! The album 'The Voice of America' (1979) and mini-album 'Three Mantras' (1980) continued this direction - 'Red Mecca' (1981) was the culmination of this approach/theme by the three-piece Cabs (the band would leave Rough Trade soon after, for a brief tenure on Factory, prior to shedding a member & making conform-deform pop for Some Bizarre). christopher watson's distinctive use of vox continental here demonstrates that they are the missing link between Suicide and Spacemen 3 - its use gives the album part of its uncanny quality. Opening & closing with a version of the theme to necrophiliac-noir 'Touch of Evil' the album embraces the fractal and industrial. Like the imploded Throbbing Gristle and cult act Fad Gadget, the Cabs here certainly weren't about pop. stephen malinder's vocals are nowhere near the singing he started to do from 'Crackdown'-onwards but more of the shouting thing (imagine Mark E Smith lost in a Ballardian industrial estate that never ends...) - perhaps this could be seen as proto-rapping? 'Red Mecca' makes a lot more sense after listening to 'Voice of America' and 'Three Mantras' - the tracks seem part of a flux here, a hypnotic album that pulsates along at an avant rate. 'red mask' has some fantastic percussion (from nik allday) and I generally have to say I'm a fan of mallinder's bass-playing here, which gives it a quality somewhere between dub & industrial. Relative 'black mask' continues the style of sampling apparent on 'Sluggin' for Jesus' and has some funky Herbie Hancock-meets-Joy Division bassplaying. The two highlights that standout here are 'split second feeling', which uses a stunning guitar riff from Kirk amid a babble of voices, vox-drones & a 'Suicide'-style minimalism (the 1st and not 2nd LP from Rev/Vega) and the sinister 'spread the virus' which feels like an update of 'Nag Nag Nag'... 'Red Mecca' is not an easy listen, it might appear quite lo-fi in the electronic sense now and some might reason that it's more influential than vital. I'd say persist, as the album reveals itself more and more with each listen and the Cabs-material from 1979-1982 was a series of related recordings. This album fits the current zeitgeist and is the kind of thing that should be flowing from our mp3 players as we travel on trains that may explode due to US foreign policy and extremist religion...Certainly the next step that included the stunning 'Yashar' makes more sense after hearing this stunning album - which remains a milestone in electronica and industrial, setting the tone for albums like 'As the Veneer of Democracy Starts to Fade' & Renegade Soundwave's 'In Dub.' I also think it's not far from Matt Johnson's 4AD debut 'Burning Blue Soul'- which I think was the same year?
A fine piece of music. Red Mecca is on the edge of Cabaret Voltaire inflexion, just getting out of the experimental-shadow-gray period of the latest 70's, and still had not yet submitt themselves to the proeminent beat that will dominate their sound after 2x45 and CrackDown. Perhaps this is the only record where they have superated the Industrial (whatever this can be) estigma that cross most of their work. Refined, subtle, yet maintaining the mistery-atraction of the strange-obscure times, while capturing the sense of elegance from some contemporary musicians of the XX century.