01. Do The Mussolini (Headkick) (Cabaret Voltaire Extended Play EP November 1978)
02. Nag Nag Nag (Cabaret Voltaire Single A Side June 1979)
03. No Escape (Cabaret Voltaire Mix Up LP October 1979)
04. Silent Command (Cabaret Voltaire Single A Side December 1979)
05. Sluggin Fer Jesus Part One (Cabaret Voltaire Three Crepuscule Tracks EP July 1981)
06. Split Second Feeling (Cabaret Voltaire Red Mecca LP September 1981)
07. Yashar (Cabaret Voltaire 2x45 LP May 1982)
08. Just Fascination (Cabaret Voltaire The Crackdown LP August 1983)
09. Sensoria (Cabaret Voltaire Single A Side September 1984)
10. The Operative (Cabaret Voltaire Micro-Phonies LP October 1984)
11. James Brown (Cabaret Voltaire Single A Side January 1985)
12. Hipnotic (Richard H. Kirk Black Jesus Voice LP June 1986)
13. Testone (Sweet Exorcist Single A Side January 1990)
14. Armed Response (Sandoz Digital Lifeforms LP 1993)
15. November X Ray Mexico (Richard H. Kirk Virtual State LP January 1994)
16. Bush Channel Stepper (Electronic Eye Closed Circuit LP September 1994)
17. King Dread (Sandoz In Dub:Chant To Jah LP June 1999)
18. Africa Must Be Free (Al Jabr One Million And Three LP June 1999)
19. Devil In Your Name (Richard H. Kirk Loopstatic LP September 2000)
20. What’s Goin’ On (Cabaret Voltaire Shadow Of Fear LP November 2020)
Writing a few hundred words about the death of a hugely influential figure from my formative years is getting to be quite a habit, and considering how coronavirus has pushed the mortality rate up higher than it’s been since 1918, it’s not going to change anytime soon. Nonetheless, on 21st September I was still sorry to hear of the demise of sonic adventurist Richard H. Kirk at the gone-too-soon age of sixty five.
Known principally for his work in Cabaret Voltaire with Chris Watson and Stephen Mallinder, by the time they released their first record, the game changing Extended Play EP in 1978, they had already been messing around in Watson’s attic for five years. Inspired by Dadaist poetry and the cut-up’s of William Burroughs, in the cultural darkness of the seventies they’d been busy creating experimental collages of sound with reel-to-reel tape recorders, a Farfisa drum machine and any others bits and pieces of primitive electronic equipment they could get their hands on.
Regularly caricatured in the weekly music press as dark, shadowy, Sheffield, doom mongers with a liking for Letraset artwork and shortwave interference radio waves, I was drawn instantly to their version of The Velvets ‘Here She Comes Now’ and the burbling, early, electro classic ‘Do The Mussolini/Headkick’, their snotty garage electronica for dummies providing all the inspiration my generation required to create something strange and wonderful, maybe even danceable, out of the disease and decay of late seventies Britain. In the cracks and margins across the land, they inspired hordes of likeminded, teenagers with zero musical ability to become active participants in the DIY underground with their own rudimentary noisescapes and cacophonous symphonies.
Cabaret Voltaire would continue to push the boundaries of post punk esoterica on essential albums like Mix Up, The Voice of America, Red Mecca and 2x45, all of which were recorded at their own Western Works studio, before the departure of Watson, a couple of major label contracts and a series of brilliantly warped and increasingly efficient industrial dance records. Revisiting these albums and tracks recently, while the tension, paranoia and alienation of Thatcher’s Britain literally seeps from every groove, if anything they sound even more astonishing and audacious now than they did then.
Nearing the end of Cabaret Voltaire’s lifetime, Richard H. Kirk was left feeling increasingly like they were in danger of succumbing to a commercial agenda at odds with their original objective. Maybe that’s why he always managed to steer his own, even more radical course alongside that of the group, most notably in 1990 with the foundational bleep and bass of Sweet Exorcist’s ‘Testone’, so what followed was over thirty years of projects that refused to follow anyone’s expectations but his own.
So it’s ironic that after decades of using countless pseudonyms like Sandoz, Electronic Eye, Xon and Al Jabr, for Richard H. Kirk it would end as it had started with Cabaret Voltaire. Recorded before the pandemic that ultimately would be his undoing, yet released just weeks after the second lockdown in November 2020, its kind of fitting that Shadow Of Fear, in many ways the ideal soundtrack to these doom and gloom times, should prove to be his last testament. A true pioneer during a period when that term was being dished out to others far less deserving, Richard H. Kirk was the genuine article.
Chris Green. 22nd September 2021.