21 November 2004


Hilarious post from Farmer-Glitch on the 'Jedi' phenomenon in the 2001 British census. But, as regular readers here will already know, I worship at a very different alter...

I last saw Kirk in the flesh about two years ago in London. I wrote about that here. I assumed that my next opportunity to take holy communion with Him would involve equally long-distance travel, so reacted with a certain degree of disbelief when the rumours started flying around that He was planning on doing a performance in my home town. It wasn't until I was finally holding the advance ticket in my sweaty palm that I truly believed that it was gonna happen; that this wasn't just some hallucination - Kirk would indeed be playing in Bristol, less than ten minutes drive from my doorstep. For one night only, the tiny Cube cinema would become a remote outpost of Sheffield - a h(e)aven for all the local weirdo disenfranchised industrial/electronic headz to congregate and take a lesson from The Creator.

(Please note: all MP3s featured are NOT bootlegs from the actual gig, they're the officially released versions, which I offer up to give all interested parties a 'flavour' of what we experienced that night. Sorry, no Jpegs - there was a strict 'no photography' rule in place. )

MP3: Cabaret Voltaire - This Is Our Religion

This was a performance in two halves. First up, an hour-long film of archival material, kicking-off with a cut-up sequence soundtracked by "This Is Our Religion", an early Cabs outtake available on Mute's rarities compilation "Listen Up With Cabaret Voltaire". A perfect opener - it's mantric repetition and sentiment drawing the audience into Kirk's unique vision, as a series of lo-rez video images flashed before our eyes: a surgeon peeling skin from a female patient's forehead, hardcore porn penetration close-ups, original Dadaist Hugo Ball in performance, Arabic slogans, warfare...all edited together in a typically random messthetic of dark sensations, fleeting horror and throw-away banality.

MP3: Cabaret Voltaire - Why Kill Time (When You Can Kill Yourself)

Then, straight into some footage of the Cabs miming along to "Why Kill Time..." (from "The Crackdown" album) in a television studio. I've got plenty of bootleg Cabs TV appearances, but I ain't never seen this one before. Kirk and Mallinder looking gorgeous in make-up, putting on a spirited performance for the cameras like some New Romantic act from a twisted para-reality. A fleeting glimpse of what mainstream pop entertainment could, and should, have been.

MP3: Richard H. Kirk - Never Loose Your Shadow

Then another cut-up sequence backed by the opening track from Kirk's recent "Earlier/Later" anthology. My feelings for this particular work of genius are well documented in the review I posted earlier this year, but suffice to say that prescient early-80s future funk tracks like this are sure to give me the goosebumps every time.

MP3: Cabaret Voltaire - Your Agent Man (live at the Lyceum)

After some brief TV documentary footage about the reopening of The Lyceum as a live venue, we were then 'treated' to what appeared to be a home-made film of the Cabs rehearsing the set for their Lyceum gig (documented on "Live At The Lyceum") at Western Works. The blurry, virtually static 'performance' by Kirk, Mallinder and original third member Chris Watson, coupled with the muddy, amateurish sound quality of the audio blasting through the PA system was admittedly a challenging experience even for a die-hard fan like myself. As my learned colleague Richard Lord remarked directly afterwards, "I feel like I've been hit by a bloody truck!" In light of this, the ten minute intermission was a welcome relief, as we staggered back to the bar for refreshments. Then, it was back to the auditorium for Kirk's live performance...

MP3: Richard H. Kirk - The Truck Bombers Of Suburbia

Against a silent backdrop of further grainy, processed video imagery, Kirk shuffled onstage with a plastic carrier bag and, without ackowledging the reverently silent crowd - you could've heard a pin drop - sat down behind his gear, rifled through his bag, pulled out a stack of minidiscs, spent a few moments studying them intently before loading one into the player, took a sip from some alcoholic beverage, pressed 'play' and unleashed the destabalising rock/dub mash-down that is the opening title track from his latest album. This was quickly followed by several as yet unreleased stompers, dominated by some fierce bass oscillator riffs that sent ripples of pure energy coursing through my body. Remember, this venue is primarily a cinema, and so the audience were all seated. I couldn't believe that everyone around me seemed able to sit there motionless - I was practically vibrating out of my seat, the bass frequencies jerking my limbs in involuntary spasms. The sound was sort of Grimey, but Grime where the relentless 4/4 kick of Hard Techno had reasserted itself as the primary source of propulsion. All the while, Kirk was fiddling around at the mixing desk, adding colossal surges of delay, echo, reverb detonations and improvising violent bursts of eardrum-splitting noise frequencies from a nearby synth. All this against a backdrop of distorted images of the Twin Towers crumbling in an endless horrifying loop.

MP3: Sandoz In Dub - Scientific Exploitation

Kirk took things down a pace after, taking the highly unusual decision to play what was, by his standards, a couple of ancient tracks from "Chant To Jah", the Dub/Dancehall influenced album first released by Touch in 1998 (subsequently re-issued by Soul Jazz in 2002). Perhaps he thought the skanky grooves would appeal to a Bristol audience, though he's not usually known for making the slightest concession to what the punters might want. Whatever, it was a fucking pleasure to hear "Scientific Exploitation" at high decibels.

MP3: Biochemical Dread - I Got Weapons

As the set neared it's apocalyptic finale, Kirk proceeded to shred what was left of my nervous system with the final cut from last year's awesome "Bush Doctrine" album - "I Got Weapons". If ever there was a track that could genuinely be described as 'electro-punk', then this is it. The guitar loops were a solid wall of hi-frequency whiteout, completely swallowing the rhythm track and causing some nasty crackling sounds of distress to emanate from the right-channel PA speaker. A final, nullifying shriek of blind rage, the like of which has surely not been performed in the name of entertainment since at least 1978.

As the performance ended, the crowd responded with a warm round of applause. But Kirk, without even glancing in our direction, took a step back, stared intently at his gear for a moment, then abruptly turned on his heal and existed stage left. I got the strange impression that he was almost disappointed with us. We'd come here to be entertained, but had we really got The Message? Whatever it was Kirk was trying to achieve, the look on his face suggested that it had fallen short of his expectations. Earlier on, during the intermission, we'd spotted him darting through the crowd on his way to the stage area, politely ducking the friendly back-slaps of the fans, seemingly unwilling to interact directly, and he never showed up in the bar afterwards either, which Mr. Lord and myself were a little disappointed by, as we'd both found him very approachable on previous meetings. Clearly Kirk was on a mission, and hanging around getting his ego massaged by a bunch of raving sycophants was not on the agenda. He expected more from us. More what? Fuck knows. The Lord works in mysterious ways....