Double Vision Presents: Cabaret Voltaire
Other // Unrated // $16.98 // October 5, 2004
Review by Carl Davis | posted March 24, 2005
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The forefathers of Industrial music, the "Big Three" if you will, have always been Kraftwerk, Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle (and not Peter Frampton and his talk-box guitar effect, as a friend of mine likes to think). Their desire to make anti-music, music made from sounds culled from machines is actually just another manifestation of the "anti-art" movement. This can be traced back to Dadaism in the early 20th century. As a reaction to the death and chaos of the First World War, an artistic style called Dada evolved. Ground Zero for the early Dadaists was Zurich's actual Cabaret Voltaire. So it makes sense that three art students from Sheffield, England would adopt the moniker to represent their visual and aural assaults, reactions to the ever-growing omnipresence of media in society.

Of the three, Cabaret Voltaire stood out as the most commercially viable, if for no other reason than their modern update of one of the Dadist's favorite techniques, the "Cut-up." The "Cut-up" technique has also been applied to the world of literature, most famously by William S. Burroughs, who wrote the book Interzone in this fashion. When applied to music, the "Cut-up" takes on a new name, one that everyone reading this should be familiar with, sampling. By taking recorded elements and looping them, juxtaposing them and basically using a pre-existing sound as an instrument, Cabaret Voltaire differentiated themselves from the cold, stark rhythms of Kraftwerk, and the strangled wails and grinding gears of Throbbing Gristle. While it's true that Gristle themselves would go on to use sampling a real deal, Cabaret Voltaire lead the way.

As you can imagine, a group so fixated on the media and it's growing control over and impact on our culture would have an amazing and innovative live show, complete with whole programs of mixed media collages, but such undertakings were costly and therefore rare. However the group decided to get its message out another way, by founding the communications company Double Vision in 1982. Their first release was Double Vision Presents: Cabaret Voltaire, which goes down in history as one of the first long form videos ever made. Very much a pastiche of the elements that they would feature in their live shows, including random and distorted film and video segments including war films, operating room footage, pornography and religious imagery, as well as stylized clips of band. The media isn't always identifiable, often blurred or enhanced with early computer graphics, or double and even triple exposed with other footage.

The 14 songs included on this disc set are:

01 - Diskono
02 - Obsession
03 - Trash Part 1
04 - Badge of Evil
05 - Nag Nag Nag
06 - Eddies Out
07 - Landslide
08 - Photophobia
09 - Trash Part 2
10 - Seconds Too Late
11 - Extract From Johnny YesNo
12 - Walls of Jericho
13 - This Is Entertainment
14 - Moscow

After viewing the visual and aural assault of Double Vision Presents: Cabaret Voltaire, I can draw a direct line to Nine Inch Nails equally seminal release Pretty Hate Machine and the video for its stand out song, "Head Like a Hole." The combination of mixed media images coupled with distorted band performances only enhances the songs already heady mix of agro beats, unique samples and scathing lyrics. Many "purists" may scoff at my comparison, but there's no reason to shun the lineage that has sprung forth from Industrial's humble beginnings, encompassing such seemingly disparate forms of music as Pop (Britney's "Toxic") and Hip-Hop (anything by Timbaland or the Neptunes).

The DVD:

Picture: The DVD is presented in a full screen aspect ratio. The video transfer is pretty good, keeping in mind that it's meant to look dirty, dark and murky.

Audio: The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track sounds great, although this DVD would have benefited from a full sound restoration, although that may not have been in keeping with the spirit in which this long form video was originally made.

Extras: There are no Extras on this DVD.

Conclusion: Looking back on Cabaret Voltaire's legacy, its amazing to be able to see their influence in so much of the popular culture we enjoy today. By confronting an audience with an onslaught of mixed media and messages they were able to make people listen to music in new ways, and infiltrated their sound into the mainstream. Make no mistake, this DVD is strictly on the lo-fi side, but in the end it proves to be much more powerful than the ultra-slick, ultra-produced commercials of their off-spring. The lack of Extra Features and some necessary background on the group and their contributions to the music world would have made this a no-brainer, as it stands though, its just as twisted and subversive as the day it dropped. Recommended.

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