As a Cabs/Kirk fan Richard's solo output, starting all the way back to "Time High Fiction" was always more challenging. Even his more commercial forays' such as "Black Jesus Voice", with its hard danceable percussion, was often leftfield of Cabs output at the time. There have been some great releases, like both his Warp label outings, "Black Jesus Voice" and its spooky sister release "Ugly Spirit", and more recently Neurometric and Afrocentric - but sometimes things don't quite add up as they should. Richard is a very talented guy, no doubting that, but for a while he was arguably releasing far too much material for it all to be consistently good.
On this 3 CD set, all of which have been released previously as download-only, we get 3 very different sound-bytes from his repertoire. Orchestra Terrestrial is his more melodic, ambient pseudonym, and for me this is by far the best disc here. All the tricks from the debut are here, but with some nice additional touches. This is the warmest RHK ever tries to sound, and whilst only 6 tracks long (still over 40mins), each track has enough time to develop gently, without any overstaying their welcome. This disc is a 4 stars disc!
Unfortunately the same cannot be said for "Reality Is Opposite", which feels more like an EP as it's continuous, but very very basic by his standards. We get found percussive loops, guitar bursts (possibly even one sampled from early Cabs, it sounds like it) and loads of repetitive vocal sample overlays. Unfortunately he's done this many times before, and much better - these sound half-finished tracks and just don't hold my interest. However worse is yet to come in shape of his Arpeggio 13 project, which is nearly an hr long. The problem is its made up of 13 tracks where he takes pretty much the same arpeggio loop and shoves it through different filters. About 4 of these tracks are quite interesting, but the rest are so minimal, and show such little musicianship (he rarely seems to add any counter-melody, and no precussion) that I cannot see me ever taking this out of the box again. A real shame.
The box itself is nicely made, and the photo-booklet is glossy (even if the same image is repeated many times in different colours etc). Some cut-up phrases of text abound in the central panels, but that's all (as you'd expect). The 3 card sleeves are extremely thin, one was even creased at the edge from new.
For this sort of price I would've liked a bit more thought in the presentation, and ideally for all 3 discs to have been at least 50 minutes long, rather than one feeling more like an EP. Ratings of the music I had seen elsewhere were not encouraging, and for me, unfortunately, they have proved to be fairly accurate. Only the Orchestra Terrestrial disc is worth several listens, personally, so I'm afraid its only a 'okay' release for me. Hope his new material will go up a notch, as when he's on top form his material is great!
Originally scheduled for release on Czech label Nextera (which has previously released CDs by the likes of Jeff Mills and Carl Craig) the issue of these three titles was delayed due to the sad death of the label's boss Kristian Kotarac, but which now see the light of day thanks to Die Stadt records and Kirk's own Intone imprint. What isn't clear is whether these three discs were intended as standalone albums or as a triple album. Each of the discs are separately titled and indeed credited to different aliases of RHK:
CD1: "Reality is Opposite" Richard H Kirk (8 tracks/37 minutes) CD2: "Umladen" Orchestra Terrestrial (6 tracks/41 minutes) CD3: "Anonymized" Richard H Kirk and the Arpeggio 13 (13 tracks/50 minutes)
I'm nevertheless inclined to think these were intended to be heard as one piece of work: whilst, amongst other horrors, planes disappear or fall out of the sky and things continue to go from bad to worse in the Middle East, for me "The Many Dimensions of..." sets out a present day dystopia - a Red Mecca for the 21st century.
"Reality is Opposite" could almost be a lost Cabaret Voltaire album from around the time of Eight Crepuscule Tracks but for a distinct post-hip hop element. "Umladen" has more of an early Kraftwerk-y feel to it (the song titles are German too) and is perhaps the most optimistic/least threatening-sounding of the three - and the most melodic as well. Finally, there's "Anonymized" which is the minimal one, sounding to me a bit like the more recent experimental work of Carl Craig, but also contains tracks that wouldn't seem out of place on Boards of Canada's Tomorrow's Harvest. Like I say, dystopian stuff but with RHK the dystopia is now, as opposed to BoC's Riddley Walker-esque visions of the future.
The packaging of this box set is of a good standard - very similar indeed to the recent live Cabaret Voltaire box set Archive #828285 Live, with a booklet that contains some (not very much) text and images by long-time Cabs/Kirk visual collaborator Phil Wolstenholme.
I deliberated for some time as to whether to give this four or five stars. It's not an easy listen and probably not an entry-level release. If you're an avid RHK/CV fan then this is a must-have and probably a 4.5/5. "Many Dimensions..." is certainly an interesting solo Kirk project (as is everything he's ever done). Is it his best? It's up there - for those of us who've heard nearly everything else this great man has done, but I would recommend newcomers to check out his two Warp albums, his Digital Lifeforms album (under the Sandoz alias) or even the earlier Time High Fiction - which are probably the ones I'd single out if (in the unlikely event) I was ever asked to write the Mojo Magazine "How to Buy Richard H. Kirk" guide.