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Music / Cabaret Voltaire

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Cabaret Voltaire is one of the Trope Makers and Trope Codifiers of Industrial music. Formed in 1973 and named after the famous Dada nightclub in Zurich, the band combined harsh Suicide-influenced Post-Punk rock, instrument-and-voice effects processing, tape manipulation, and eventually such influences as Funk, Dub, Dance, and House to become one of the most prolific and respected artists of 70s and 80s electronic music. The band officially disbanded in 1994, though guitarist Richard H. Kirk resurrected the name in 2009 for collaborative purposes.

Band members included:

  • Richard H. Kirk: guitars, keyboards, tapes (1973-1994, 2009-Present)
  • Stephen Mallinder: vocals, bass, keyboards (1973-1994)
  • Chris Watson: keyboards, tapes (1973-1982)


Key Discography:

  • Extended Play (1978, EP)
  • Mix-Up (1979)
  • The Voice of America (1980)
  • Three Mantras (1980, EP)
  • Red Mecca (1981)
  • 2x45 (1982)
  • The Crackdown (1983)
  • Johnny Yesno (1983)
  • Micro-Phonies (1984)
  • Drinking Gasoline (1985, EP)
  • The Covenant, The Sword, and The Arm of the Lord (1985)
  • Code (1987)
  • Eight Crepescule Tracks (1988, compilation)
  • Groovy, Laidback and Nasty (1990)
  • Body and Soul (1991)
  • Plasticity (1992)
  • International Language (1993)
  • The Conversation (1994)
  • The Original Sound of Sheffield '83/'87 (2001, compilation)
  • Conform to Deform '82/'90 (2001, compilation)
  • The Original Sound of Sheffield '78/'82 (2002, compilation)
  • Methodology '74/'78: The Attic Tapes (2002, demos compilation)


This band provides examples of the following tropes:

  • A Date with Rosie Palms: "I Want You", with little room for reinterpretation.
    Freak yourself (Shake it, shake it)
    Close the door (Shake it, shake it)
    What you did (Shake it, shake it)
    Just hit the floor (Shake it, shake it)
  • A Wild Rapper Appears!: "Runaway" is the only song on Groovy, Laidback and Nasty with a rap segment.
  • Concept Album: Red Mecca is essentially this, focusing the band's sound on the destructive politics of the Middle East during the 1980s, hence the name.
    • On a similar note, "Three Mantras" takes this further and has 2 full pieces dedicated to the West and the East. 'Western Mantra' is a typical Cabaret Voltaire style industrial-electronic barrage with some slight middle eastern themes while 'Eastern Mantra' is a full on Muslimgauze-esque sound collage of traditional arab music and Eastern sounds.
  • Cover Version: Quite a Few:
    • On their Extended Play EP was a cover of Velvet Underground's "Here She Comes Now"
    • Their debut album The Mix Up had a cover of The Seed's "No Escape".
    • Their '70s demo tape 1974 - 1976 had a cover of "She Loved You" by The Beatles, albeit a strange deconstruction.
  • Deconstruction: Most of their covers (see above) are literal examples of this, where they make strange music collages that are minimalist and very different from the source material.
  • Industrial: Trope Makers and Trope Codifier alongside Throbbing Gristle. Also an Ur-Example of Industrial's dance-based subgenre EBM.
  • House Music: Their output from Code through to their dissolution, evolving into Acid House.
  • Intercourse with You: "I Want You", combined with A Date with Rosie Palms.
  • Lead Bassist: Stephen Mallinder is a Type B, and possibly a Type C as well.
  • Long Title:
    • The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord
    • "Why Kill Time (When You Can Kill Yourself?)"
  • Mushroom Samba: 'Heaven And Hell' from their debut album is a rather nightmarish take on this, talking about fatal drug overdoses.
  • New Sound Album:
    • 2X45 changes from their usual noisy Industrial sound to a more accessible and danceable sound inspired by Funk, hinting at the direction the band would take from The Crackdown-onwards.
    • The Crackdown transitions between their earlier Industrial output and their Synth-Pop/EBM era. Micro-Phonies begins their EBM era proper.
    • Code began the band's House Music era.
  • Non-Indicative Title: Three Mantras has only two mantras: "Western Mantra" and "Eastern Mantra". To further the confusion, the two are switched in the track listing.
  • Obligatory Bondage Song: Possibly "Whip Blow" the lyrics are so abstract it is difficult to tell.
  • Post-Punk
  • Protest Song: "Drink Your Poison" was most likely meant as a song against the Jonestown mass suicide.
  • Sampling:
    • Recordings of TV presenters, religious clerics, televangelists and policemen appeared in their music as far back as The '70s.
    • Extensively sampled The Outer Limits (1963) episode "Demon with a Glass Hand", most notably in "Yashar".
      "There's 70 billion people on Earth. Where are they hiding?"
  • Synth-Pop: From The Crackdown through The '90s.
  • Word Salad Title: One of their songs is called "If The Shadows Could March?" (yes, with a question mark.)


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