1st solo album in 5 years, recorded, produced and written by Richard H. Kirk, founding member of Cabaret Voltaire, the album was constructed at Western Works, Sheffield, over a three-year period. Work began with recording on midi and analogue synthesisers before guitar and vocals (Kirk’s first use of vocals in 10 years) were added.
Kirk explains, “A lot of time was spent on post-production, editing and then living with the material and I think it benefited from stepping back and then revisiting after doing other things.”
Although not an overtly political album, it’s hard not to hear a reaction to recent years’ world events in the overwhelming urgency of ‘Nuclear Cloud’ or ‘20 Block Lockdown’ or in ‘New Lucifer / The Truth Is Bad’. When questioned Kirk admits, “It’s not really a political album, but over recent years – during the recording – all manner of horrorshow events have cropped up and now we seem to be in a rerun of the Cold War with Russia back as the Bogeyman.”
The album’s title, Dasein (a German word meaning “being there” or “presence”, often translated into English as “existence”), is a fundamental concept in existentialism. Kirk explains “culture succumbs to nostalgia in much the same way that an individual looks back wistfully to adolescence or childhood - the nostalgia is partly for a time when he or she wasn’t nostalgic, just lived purely IN THE NOW.”
In 2014, during the recording period, Kirk began work on Cabaret Voltaire live and so the two projects coexisted in tandem. Although Kirk’s varied projects have always existed separate to one another, says Kirk, “in the past some solo works served as a blueprint for what I did later with Cabaret Voltaire”.
Billed as a performance consisting solely of machines, multi-screen projections and Richard H. Kirk, Cabaret Voltaire recently announced the first UK performance in over 20 years at the Devil’s Arse Cave (aka Peak Cavern) in Castleton, Derbyshire on Saturday 29 April. Kirk will perform entirely new material for a performance relevant to the 21st Century with no nostalgia.
RECENT PRAISE FOR RICHARD H. KIRK:
“One of the UK’s pioneering electronic agitators” – Electronic Sound
“In five decades of key-bashing and knob-twisting, Richard H. Kirk has remained at the vanguard of electronic music” – FACT
“…decades of electronic innovation, forged in Sheffield” – Uncut
“Kirk was toying with distorted realities from 1970s onwards” – Record Collector
Tracklisting: 1. Lets Jack 2. Lear Jet 3. Nuclear Cloud 4. Do It Right Now 5. New Lucifer / The Truth Is Bad 6. Radioactive Water 7. Invasion Pretext 8. 20 Block Lockdown 9. Sub / Antartic / H20
Blackest Ever Black presents to youDead Unique, an album by Officer! recorded in 1995 but - outrageously, inexplicably - never before released into the public domain. This then is not a reissue or a revival; it’s a new record that just happens to have been maturing in the cask for, oh, a little shy of 20 years. It also happens to be a lost classic of English art-rock, and the crowning achievement in the career of its mercurial creator, Mick Hobbs.
Londoner Hobbs’ roots are in the fecund RIO scene of the late ‘70s and early 1980s, initially as guitarist in The Work (alongside Bill Gilonis, Rick Wilson and Henry Cow’s Tim Hodgkinson), and subsequent related groupings The Lowest Note, The Lo Yo Yo, and The Momes. Over the course of the decade he became closely associated with This Heat and their Cold Storage studio in Brixton, working with the likes of Flaming Tunes, Family Fodder, Catherine Jauniaux and Zeena Parkins, to name but a few.
Officer! – the project that this incorrigible collaborator and connector calls his own - surfaced in 1982 with a cassette tape entitled Eight New Songs By Mick Hobbs.
It marked the blossoming of a singular writer and improvisor, with a gift for plangent melody, ingenious arrangement and lyrics at once caustic and courtly, playful and profound (two songs from this tape, ‘Life At The Water’s Edge’ and ‘Dogface’, have been remastered for a limited edition 7” release on Blackest Ever Black later this year).
The Cold Storage-recordedOssification LP arrived a year later, followed by Cough (1985) and Yes Yes No No Yes No Yes (1988). Megaphone Records, responsible for Ossification’s recent 30th anniversary reissue, rightly describe it as “one of the most unusual, pleasurable and character-filled ‘pop’ records anyone has heard…a timeless anomaly in the history of recorded music.”
By the start of the 1990s Hobbs had joined Jad Fair’s Half Japanese (he continues to play in that group as well as Strobe Talbot, a trio with Fair and Benb Gallaher). In the early months of ’95, Half Japanese were in Baltimore to record their Hot LP; Hobbs stayed on to cut the bulk of the songs that comprise Officer!’s Dead Unique – songs drawn from a rich store of material written and refined in the seven years since the band’s last outing - with a talented assemblage of local and visiting musicians.
Returning to the UK, Hobbs brought the tracks to producer Julia Brightly to mix at her 16-track home studio in Bethnal Green; by the end of the summer,Dead Unique had taken shape. And then? Nothing. For reasons that no one, least of all Hobbs, can remember, Dead Unique was shelved, all but forgotten about until 2012, when Blackest Ever Black chanced upon it while trawling the Officer! archive maintained for Hobbs by Andrew Jacques. Finally, rightfully, on May 26th, 2014, the album will be made available to all for the very first time - on double-vinyl, CD and digital formats.
A complex but thrillingly immediate avant-pop song cycle that charms and confounds at every turn, Dead Unique will give immense pleasure not only to Officer!’s existing cult following, but to anyone with an appreciation of piquant, idiosyncratic songcraft – fans of Kevin Ayers, Flaming Tunes, Art Bears, Woo, Dislocation Dance, R. Stevie Moore, Robert Wyatt, Cleaners From Venus, Lol Coxhill or The Monochrome Set should especially pay attention. It touches upon ragged-raw rock ‘n roll, sumptuous chamber music, pastoral folk, blowsy prog-jazz and paranoid dub-space, effortlessly shifting from skronking abstraction to rousing harmonic refrain and back again.
Dead Unique is also the culmination of Hobbs’ lifelong collaborative impulse: his visionary ability to bring musicians together, galvanise them and wrestle coherence out of the collective free play of ideas, arriving at something far more than the sum of its parts.
The tension between composition and improvisation is key to the LP’s power, with Hobbs abetted by an extraordinary supporting cast that includes Tim Hodgkinson (bass clarinet), Pleasant Livers’ Fred Collins (vocals), Legendary Pink Dots’ Patrick Q (violin), filmmaker/animator Martha Colburn (vocal), Gilles Rieder (drums), Jad Fair (vocals) and Jason Willett (bass, keyboards, trumpet).
Special mention must go to John Dierker, whose superbly expressive clarinet and saxophone parts are a fixture throughout, and to Joey Stack, who takes lead vocals on ‘Good’ and the show-stopping ‘Elephant Flowers’. Nonetheless it is the voice of Hobbs – as principal writer, performer and protagonist of these songs – that resonates most powerfully. Blurring the roles of storyteller, poet and prankster, he turns memorable line after memorable line, booby-trapping them with mischievous puns, fleet-footed literary allusions, sudden digressions and shifts of register, nonsense rhymes and other wordplay.
But his acute wit and flair for the absurd is moored by a deep romantic sensibility, and though it delights in the minutiae of the human comedy, Dead Unique ultimately addresses its biggest themes: love, loss, commitment, independence, the mutability and inconstancy of all things. “You lose, you learn, you advance…but you always go back.”
Tracklisting: 1. Nest 2. Elephant Flowers 3. It Goes Up / Revenge 4. Go Back 5. Cows Hum In The Fields 6. Shrug / Good 7. Biteman 8. Nardis 9. Someone At The Door 10. Stewed Fruit 11. All I Got 12. V.I.M. 13. Bugs In Amber 14. Guess 15. The Pony Was Contented 16. Lilac And Orange 17. Clint
Will To Be Well is the new studio album by Dalhous, their second for Blackest Ever Black. This double-LP reflects writer-producer Marc Dall’s continued interest in the life and arcana of R.D. Laing, but also alludes to more universal and enduring mysteries: the relationships between body and mind, illness and wellness, the physical and the metaphysical.
The fifteen tracks assembled here also showcase the maturation of a uniquely gifted and expressive composer: Dall’s stirring, efflorescent melodies and stately harmonic architectures, with their grievously honed simplicity, are a delight: lucid, lyrical, immediate.
For all the modernity of Dalhous’s approach, the album recalls a bygone era in synthesized and sample-based music, a time when its practitioners were not just set-designers but storytellers too. Will To Be Well arrives just one year on from the Edinburgh-based project’s tenebrous debut, An Ambassador For Laing, which was released to widespread acclaim in Spring 2013: The Wire praised "a frequently beautiful music, whose often calm surface belies the powerful currents moving beneath it", while FACT called the LP a “wonderfully compelling head-scratcher…opaque, elusive – and fascinating.”
Nonetheless, a notable shift in tone has occurred in the fourteen months that have elapsed. If Ambassador was a tussle between darkness and light that ended in stalemate, with Will To Be Will it seems the light might just be winning. Pieces like ‘Transference’ and ‘Her Mind Was A Blank’ project a rapturous psychedelic intensity; ‘To Be Universal You Must Be Specific’ and ‘Entertain The Idea’ adopt the serene ambient register of recent Dalhous EP Visibility Is A Trap; while ‘Sensitised To This Area’ goes about its business with an almost Balearic swagger.
But light too can be oppressive: the sun that gives life can also burn, and bleach, and blind. And even amid the endorphin rush of the album’s most ebullient passages, there is the sense of a greater melancholy, an intractable doubt, lurking beneath the surface.
Dalhous’s music is suitably paradoxical, managing to sound at once futuristic and folkloric, both technologically advanced and avowedly pastoral. The elegiac repetitions of ‘A Communion With These People’ and the pagan drones of ‘Lovers Of The Highlands’ speak of Dall and his studio partner Alex Ander’s deep connection to the rugged contours of their native Scottish landscape, while on ‘Four Daughters By Four Women’ and ‘Thoughts Out Of Season’ convulsive post-rave rhythms are employed to evoke ancient natural cycles.
Though Will To Be Well is a less obviously eerie album than its predecessor, Dalhous’s nose for the uncanny remains. A defining album from a major young artist.jT
Tracklisting: 1. First Page From Justine 2. A Communion With These People 3. Function Curve 4. Sensitised To This Area 5. Lovers Of The Highlands 6. Four Daughters By Four Women 7. Her Mind Was A Blank 8. Transference 9. To Be Universal You Must Be Specific 10. Someone Secure 11. Entertain The Idea 12. Abyssal Plane 13. Thoughts Out Of Season 14. DSM-III 15. Masquerading As Love
It is said that the gods of the dead demand you ritualistically commit to each intensely hot beat of the ceremonial drum. Now, here, is the music for their celebration of death, music to dance together with, to oblivion, a music both spectacular and ecstatic where, like never before, the spirits of santería and vaudou mix with raw electricity into burning diabolical polyrhythms. We here present Cut Hands and Festival Of The Dead.
This is Cut Hands' third album to date: the acclaimed Afro Noise I introduced the project in 2011, and 2012's Black Mamba expanded its feverish vision, preceded by a single of the same name on Blackest Ever Black. 2013 saw the release of the similarly fiery 'Madwoman' and 'Damballah 58' 12"s (on Downwards and BEB respectively).
Festival of The Dead is without doubt the most potent distillation yet of Cut Hands' malign percussive energy, with pieces like 'The Claw' and 'Vaudou Take Me High' leading the irresistible polyrhythmic assault, in pursuit of one thing: a final rapturous celebration of oblivion.
Written and produced by William Bennett. Original veve artwork by Mimsy DeBlois. Mastered by Noel Summerville. 2xLP (BLACKESTLP010) housed in high gloss gatefold sleeve.
Tracklisting: Side A: 1. The Claw 2. I Know What I Must Do 3. Damballah 58
Side B: 1. Parataxic Distortion 2. Festival Of The Dead 3. Belladonna Theme
Side C: 1. Vaudou Take Me High 2. Inlightenment 3. None Of Your Bones Are Broken
Side D: 1. Madwoman (Festival Mix) 2. Fruit Is Ripe 3. Fire Ends The Day