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Customer Review

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unwieldy and overpriced box set from one of electronic music's most influential bands, 26 Nov. 2013
This review is from: Collected Works 1983-1985 (Audio CD)
The post-Rough Trade work of Cabaret Voltaire has been overlooked somewhat of late, so it was good to learn that Mute Records were releasing this 8 disc box set of their period with Virgin Records. It's a pity though, that their two subsequent LPs, for EMI, couldn't have been included as well since that would have "completed the set" of their major label period before the group reverted to releasing music on independent labels in the early 1990s and then more or less disappearing altogether. And not forgetting "The Drain Train" EP, which was released in between the Virgin/EMI changeover but would have fitted in very well sonically with the rest of the material here. Never mind - I understand there are legal reasons why it is easier for Mute and Richard H Kirk (who is curating the project) to re-issue the Virgin LPs only at this time, so this is an observation rather than a criticism. What is on here, will, I think be more than enough to be going on with.

THE ORIGINAL DISCS: I found these somewhat underwhelming - the track listings are identical to the previous CD copies. The remastered sound is OK but does not, I think, justify a re-purchase. The Cabs' albums of this period are all ground-breaking, but could not perhaps be called classics. There's not much to choose between them. "The Crackdown" - the major label debut which saw them make the transition from independent to major, sounds like progress rather than watering down - unlike so many other indie bands that seemed happy to take the cash. It contains the wonderful bonus track "Theme from Doublevision" which sounds like it could have been taken from Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Possibly - though it's a matter of personal choice - "Microphonies" is CV's best album from the period and the one that set the template not just for their own sound, but would go on to influence countless house and techno artists into the 1990s and beyond. Retrospectively, however, it is actually the "Drinking Gasoline/Gasoline in Your Eye" CD/DVD 2 disc set (a set within boxset!) which is the best thing in this collection. Industrial and uncompromising, "Drinking Gasoline" was more of an EP: 4 tracks on 4 sides of 12" vinyl which would shape the dance music of the next two decades. Joey Beltram, for example, was surely clocking these basslines before he made "Energy Flash"? The DVD is the old "Gasoline in Your Eye" VHS available for the first time on this format. It serves not only as a great collection of their songs but also a lesson in video making. Cabaret Voltaire (and director Peter Care) created a style of video making "fast cuts and degraded images" using primitive technology that was absorbed into the mainstream of pop video making. Finally (amongst the previously released titles), chronologically speaking, is "The Covenant, the Sword and the Arm of the Lord". Perhaps the highest budget of all, it is the record that really shows the Cabs' use of voice sampling, used throughout their career, in its best light. Nearly all records that tried to ape this approach got it sooo badly wrong - "We got a hot one for ya"/"keep this frequency clear", etc. On the downside, "Covenant" sounds a lot more like The Art of Noise than I remember, probably because Kirk and Mallinder were using the same (expensive) synths by then.

THE BONUS DISCS: Of most interest initially perhaps is the previously unreleased "Earthshaker" soundtrack. Whilst it's ok - worth having for big fans such as myself - a lot of the tracks are disappointingly familiar, being remixes/versions from the "Microphonies" period. Then, there's a CD of 12" A and B sides. Again this is fine, although it bears a passing similarity to Original Sound of Sheffield: B. Finally, there's a live DVD. Whilst better audio-wise than some other CV live recordings, the visuals aren't great. The resolution is probably better than expected - but nevertheless murky and shot from a single camera (although the Hammersmith Palais gig is enhanced by some visuals). It doesn't exactly make for a great viewing experience. The live performances are great though.

THE PRESENTATION/PACKAGING: This review is for the CD-only box set which sadly the record company have seen to put in the same box and packaging as the special edition (the latter includes the vinyls as well). Mute's publicity says the CD box set has "room" for the LPs but hey, if I'd wanted the LPs, I'd have bought the special edition. This box is too big for 8 CDs. There's a 12" booklet containing images, album artwork and sleeve notes by Richard Kirk (good), and an "essay" by Phil Barnes (yawn - should have got Richard to do ALL the blurb). The CDs themselves are packaged in gatefold cardboard slip cases - the original albums also have booklets and revised artwork.

THE VERDICT: I love Cabaret Voltaire but I can't help but feeling slightly underwhelmed. "Collected Works" is not, at time of writing, exactly a good value re-issue package (and there ARE many good value box sets out there) and as a fan, there's nothing, apart from the Drinking Gasoline CD/DVD package (which should hopefully see a stand-alone release at some point), that has a "must have" feel about it. In comparison to the recent Johnny Yesno Redux [DVD] [2011] and Cabaret Voltaire-Live From London (region 0) [DVD] [2013] [NTSC] releases, "8385" disappoints slightly. Overall though, it's four stars from me - CV deserve the re-issue treatment and whilst this package doesn't quite hit the mark it's a valiant effort to curate the works of one of electronic music's most influential yet underrated bands.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 30 Nov 2013 14:13:24 GMT
For £104 I'd want them playing live at my birthday party, plus maybe a t-shirt, a poster and some badges as the extras.

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Dec 2013 20:53:59 GMT
I got my copy at a special pre-order price of around £90.00 because I bought it direct from Mute/Cabaret Voltaire - still too much though.
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Review Details



Colin McCartney

Location: United Kingdom

Top Reviewer Ranking: 919