Pow-Wow by Stephen Mallinder

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The debut solo album by Stephen Mallinder of Cabaret Voltaire received an overdue reissue on the Ice Machine label a few weeks ago; my CD turned up yesterday. Pow-Wow was one of the last albums released by Fetish Records in 1982, and it’s always been one I preferred to the solo recordings by Mallinder’s much more prolific colleague, Richard H. Kirk. Away from Cabaret Voltaire, Kirk and Mallinder’s music is mostly instrumental but the latter had a very different sound, dubbier and much more rhythmic than Kirk’s abrasive distortions. The longer pieces on Pow-Wow work variations on the energetic industrial funk developed by the Cabs and 23 Skidoo, benefiting a great deal from Mallinder’s dominant bass and insistent rhythms for which he was aided by Cabaret Voltaire’s regular percussionist, Alan Fish. Last Few Days, the most mysterious of Britain’s early Industrial groups, receive a credit for “chance element”. Mallinder sings on a couple of the tracks (if his whispered growl can be described as singing) while taped voices fill out the spaces elsewhere: a ménage à trois on Three Piece Swing, a voice from an assassination drama (Executive Action?) identifying the speaker as “Lee Harvey Oswald”, and so on. A handful of shorter pieces that run for less than two minutes are little more than looped sketches, but the unidentifiable analogue sources still sound unusual and original today, unlike synth-heavy albums from the same period.

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Mallinder’s other solo recordings from this time were just as good: a 12-inch single, Temperature Drop/Cool Down, and Del Sol, his uptempo contribution to the Fetish compilation/memorial album, The Last Testament. Cabs-affiliated groups like Hula and Chakk aimed for a similar blend of industrial menace and danceable grooves but the results were seldom as successful. Mallinder’s greater experience shows on these recordings, the best of which are the equal of anything that Cabaret Voltaire was doing at the time.

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A Fetish ad from the Neville Brody-designed event booklet for The Final Academy, 1982.

The sleeve design by Neville Brody is another plus, vying with his cover art for Thirst by Clock DVA for being the most cryptic design among the many covers he produced for Fetish Records. The designer revealed his rationale in The Graphic Language of Neville Brody (1988):

This sleeve was about human ritual and human slaughter. In the media world of newscasters and advertisers everybody becomes a viewer; conditioned to regard other people’s sufferings as no more than a form of entertainment. The bullring is a metaphor for this.

A good example, then, of a cover that means more to the designer than to the record owner.

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All design by Neville Brody.

The new edition of Pow-Wow improves on the original and the scarce reissues by bundling the album with Del Sol, both tracks from the 12-inch single and an edit of Cool Down from a Japanese release. It also includes one of the shorter tracks which for some reason was missing from previous reissues (this and the long version of Cool Down are from vinyl sources). I’ve had all of this material for many years so didn’t really need the CD, but my records are a little worn through over-use, and besides which, these are cult works.

Previously on { feuilleton }
TV Wipeout revisited
Doublevision Presents Cabaret Voltaire
Just the ticket: Cabaret Voltaire
European Rendezvous by CTI
TV Wipeout
Seven Songs by 23 Skidoo
Elemental 7 by CTI
The Crackdown by Cabaret Voltaire
Neville Brody and Fetish Records

Weekend links 347

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Dream Animal (1903) by Alfred Kubin.

• The week in Finland: A set of Finnish emojis includes icons for notable cultural exports such as Tom of Finland and Moominmamma. Tove Jansson’s creations have received fresh attention this month with the debut release of the electronic soundtrack music for The Moomins, an animated TV series made in Poland in 1977, and first broadcast in the UK in 1983. Andrew Male talked to Graeme Miller and Steve Shill about creating Moomins music with rudimentary instrumentation.

• Russian company Mosfilm has made a new copy of Andrei Tarkovsky’s science-fiction masterpiece, Stalker (1979), available on their YouTube channel. Tarkovsky’s films have been blighted by inexplicable flaws in their home releases, as Stalker was when reissued on a Region B Blu-ray last year. The new Mosfilm upload looks better than my old DVD so for the moment this is the one I’ll be watching.

• Before straight and gay: the discreet, disorienting passions of the Victorian era. Deborah Cohen reviews A Very Queer Family Indeed by Simon Goldhill. Related: Kevin Killian reviews Murder in the Closet: Essays in Queer Clues in Crime Fiction Before Stonewall, edited by Curtis Evans.

• “How many graphic designers owe their introduction to typography to a teenage encounter with the typefaces and lettering found on album covers?” asks Adrian Shaughnessy.

• Mixes of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 210 by Ascion, FACT Mix 587 by Seekersinternational, and The Séance, 4th February 2017.

Pankaj Mishra on Václav Havel’s lessons on how to create a “parallel polis”. Related: The Power of the Powerless by Václav Havel.

Hans Corneel de Roos on Dracula‘s lost Icelandic sister text: How a supposed translation proved to be much more.

• “I live outside the world in a universe I myself have created, like a madman or a holy visionary.” — Michel de Ghelderode.

• The Metropolitan Museum of Art makes 375,000 images of public art freely available under Creative Commons Zero.

Richard H. Kirk on Thatcherite pop and why Cabaret Voltaire were like The Velvet Underground.

Emily Gosling on what David Lynch’s use of typography reveals (or doesn’t).

White Noise Sounds of Frozen Arctic Ocean with Polar Icebreaker Idling.

John Gray on what cats can teach us about how to live.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Day of the Mellotron (Restored).

The Warburg Institute Iconographic Database.

Sastanàqqàm by Tinariwen.

Tanz Der Vampire (1969) by The Vampires of Dartmoore | Dracula (1983) by Dilemma | Vampires At Large (2012) by John Zorn

Weekend links 339

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Untitled (2011) by Roger Hiorns. Photograph by Kate Green.

• “Most surprising and troubling of all is the status of a series of new paintings, also depicting naked male bodies. The figures look archaic, painted using latex and molten and folded plastic. They have sex with each other and with themselves. Extra penises float about, and fill any otherwise unoccupied orifice. There’s a lot of rogering going on, anal and oral, the figures consumed entirely by the act.” Adrian Searle reviews Roger Hiorns’ latest show at the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham.

• “At the heart of magical belief is the belief in your own free will, in your ability to make changes and influence the world. It wasn’t accepting your circumstances, it was working to understand and directly change them.” Jessa Crispin on the women of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

Addison Nugent on William Hope Hodgson: “The Forgotten Bodybuilding, Shark-Fighting Sailor who Invented Cosmic Horror (and annoyed Houdini)”. I’d quibble with the “forgotten”—Hodgson is sometimes overlooked but not exactly unknown—but the appraisal is welcome.

• More end-of-year lists: The Quietus posts its Albums of the Year, Bandcamp does the same, while Adrian Curry at MUBI announces his favourite film posters of the year.

Callum James has devised The Quite Difficult Book Quiz for those who’d like a challenge (and a donation to charity) over Christmas.

• “A profoundly poetic anomaly”: Kenan Malik on the Tantric paintings that pre-empt Modernist abstraction.

Patricia M’s Flickr albums contain a wealth of antique graphic design, advertising art and undigitised letterforms.

• “Cronky, shonky, soggy, knackered”: Simon Reynolds on ten years of Moon Wiring Club.

Michael LePointe on the delightful mysteries of The Voynich Manuscript.

Veloelectroindustrial: Wandering the wastelands of former industry.

• Mix of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 202 by JG Biberkopf.

• “Was Edmund Wilson jealous of Lolita?” asks Alex Beam.

• “Research finds MP3s drain your music of emotion.

Richard H. Kirk‘s favourite albums.

Pavel Banka‘s surreal abstractions.

Dennis Cooper‘s Alan Clarke Day.

Cosmic Surfin’ (1978) by Yellow Magic Orchestra | Cosmic Meditation (1991) by Moondog | Cosmic Call (2006) by The Evpatoria Report

Weekend links 338

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At the mountains of madness, fragment I (2014–16) by Céli Lee.

Spirits of Place, edited by John Reppion: new writings from Bryndís Björgvinsdóttir, Vajra Chandrasekera, Maria J. Pérez Cuervo, Warren Ellis, Alan Moore, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Kristine Ong Muslim, Dr. Joanne Parker, Mark Pesce, Iain Sinclair, Gazelle Amber Valentine and Damien Williams.

• “Are we wrong to neglect [Jean Cocteau]? We are.” Kevin Jackson reviews Jean Cocteau: A Life, a biography by Claude Arnaud that’s finally available in an English edition (translated by Lauren Elkin & Charlotte Mandell). Related: Jean Cocteau speaks to the year 2000.

Void Beats / Invocation Trex by Cavern of Anti-Matter has been one of my favourite music releases this year. Tim Gane talks about the inadvertent origin of the group, and there’s also the welcome news of a reissue for the scarce first album, Blood Drums.

• Pauline Oliveros: 1932–2016; Geeta Dayal looks back on the life of US composer Pauline Oliveros, including reflections from, amongst others, Betsey Biggs, Fred Frith, Terry Riley, and Morton Subotnick.

• The relaunched Jayde Design website is selling copious Moorcock publications and ephemera, back issues of New Worlds magazine, and much else besides, including rare works of my own.

• New from Mute Records: Richard H. Kirk #7489 (Collected Works 1974–1989) and Sandoz #9294 (Collected Works 1992–1994).

• Drawings by Austin Osman Spare are on display for the next two weeks at the Atlantis Bookshop, London.

The Architecture of the Overlap: Sir John Soane’s Museum, London, scanned in three dimensions.

• Mixes of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 201 by Félicia Atkinson, and FACT mix 579 by Jenny Hval.

• “No one has the slightest idea what is and isn’t cultural appropriation,” says Fredrik deBoer.

• I’m never keen on end-of-year lists but I’ll read any list that John Waters writes.

• “The Driller Killer and the humanist behind the blood and sickening crunch”.

• More Lovecraft: Stories to make you say UGH! by Pete Von Sholly.

Alan Moore talks to Stewart Lee.

At The Mountains Of Madness (1968) by H.P. Lovecraft | Mountains Falling (2001) by Bluebob | Mountains Crave (2012) by Anna von Hausswolff

The original Cabaret Voltaire

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Cabaret Voltaire #1 (1916). Cover by Hans Arp.

Richard H. Kirk’s announcement that he’ll be performing at the Berlin Atonal festival as Cabaret Voltaire caused some raising of eyebrows recently, although if Stephen Mallinder isn’t involved I won’t be getting too excited myself. The last few releases under the Cabaret Voltaire name were credited to Kirk/Mallinder but from Plasticity (1992) on they don’t sound very different to Kirk’s solo releases from the same period. That’s not to say the music suffers but you have to wonder why the group name is being perpetuated if there’s nothing unique attached to it.

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Dune, parole in libertà by Filippo Marinetti.

The group, old or new, will be the first thing that comes to mind for most people when they hear the name Cabaret Voltaire, something that might have surprised Hugo Ball who founded the original Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich almost a century ago. Cabaret Voltaire (the group) named themselves after Ball’s project, their intentions in the mid-1970s being similarly Dadaist. Early Cabs performances were more audience provocations than anything to do with entertainment; the music came later, and only after several years of very uncommercial tape experimentation, some of which can be heard on Methodology ’74–’78: Attic Tapes (2003). Thanks to Switzerland staying out of the war the original Cabaret didn’t get wrecked by bombs or destroyed by the Nazis, and is still active today. Ball also published a Cabaret Voltaire journal, two pages of which can be seen here. If this doesn’t look very dramatic to our eyes it needs to be remembered that everyone who first saw it would have been born in the 19th century so the contents would have seemed a lot more radical. A slim publication but with a formidable list of contributors: Guillaume Apollinaire, Hans Arp, Blaise Cendrars, Wassily Kandinsky, Filippo Marinetti, Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Tristan Tzara and others.

Also at Ubuweb (where else?) there are several recordings of Hugo Ball’s Dada poetry including a recital of Karawane by (of all people) Marie Osmond. Who knew there was a connection between the Osmonds and Cabaret Voltaire?

Previously on { feuilleton }
Cabaret Voltaire on La Edad de Oro, 1983
Doublevision Presents Cabaret Voltaire
Just the ticket: Cabaret Voltaire
TV Wipeout
The Crackdown by Cabaret Voltaire