Initially a three piece, Richard H. Kirk, Stephen Mallinder and Chris Watson began by playing around with recorded sounds manipulated by basic reel-to-reel tape recorders in Sheffield in 1973.
Way ahead of their time, these ideas culminated in 1975, when the three staged their first performance of these sound experiments and assumed the name Cabaret Voltaire, taken from the name of the club started in Zurich by the principals of the Dada art movement during the First World War.
Noises were built up on tape loops and embellished with various instruments and processed and distorted voices to produce a dense percussive sound. The Cabaret Voltaire of 1973 to 1976 was purely involved in the manipulation of these sounds and the compilation of tapes of them.
Chris Watson left the group in October 1981 on the eve of an international tour to pursue a career in television sound recording. This departure left Kirk and Mallinder free to commit to a long-term struggle with the “pop music” industry.
It is always difficult to assess any one group’s influence in an area such as contemporary music. However, if nothing else, Cabaret Voltaire (along with Throbbing Gristle) were responsible for pioneering the acceptability and use of many sounds that would not have been considered anything to do with music in 1973. Particularly the inclusion of “found voices” that has always been a trademark of their material. They were also responsible for inspiring a number of groups who continue to work on the fringes of the music business and whose primary aims appear to be to widen the boundaries of ‘music’.
To this end, Cabaret Voltaire were instrumental in defining a strand of popular music which became known as experimental or “industrial”, whose practitioners Cabaret Voltaire moved on to leave far behind them.
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