Cabaret Voltaire: #8385 (Collected Works 1983-1985) – album review

Cabaret Voltaire: #8385 (Collected Works 1983-1985) (Mute)
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Pioneers of British electronic music, Cabaret Voltaire, are given the box set treatment. Louder Than War’s Paul Scott-Bates listens.

A six CD, four LP, 2 DVD with 40 page 12” booklet containing the mid-period Cabaret Voltaire releases is the stuff that dreams are made of. It’s here. There is a God. With CD versions of 1985’s The Covenant, The Sword And The Arm Of The Lord only available for £40+, this is a very welcome package.

In the late 70s Cabaret Voltaire were well ahead of their time with their often experimental mix of techno, dance and dub. Possibly too far ahead of their time to be accepted. Their crashing beats, screeching synths and repeated loops were a trademark and their influence was widespread and still is to this day.

Celebrating thirty years since its release, The Crackdown is a weird trip into electronic experimentation. From the jazz skip of Moscow through to the near post punk/electro funk sound of 24-24 the album and its accompanying EP were ground breaking to say the least. Yes, some of it sounds dated given the sounds and technology now available, but a rap on a British release in 1983 was pretty unique, and that was Voltaire’s strongpoint. Always ahead of the crowd, always fresh and exciting.


1984 album, Micro-Phonies was certainly a triumph and made folk sit up and listen. Opener Do Right had the sound that would come in later works (and their nearly hits Here To Go and Don’t Argue) and tracks like James Brown and Sensoria which helped to mould their reputation which undoubtedly came before them.

Four trademark extended tracks appear on the semi-legendary Drinking Gasoline. The funky Cabaret Voltaire now in full swing with soundbytes before they were ever so fashionable. Big Funk can do nothing but make you sit up and want to move in your seat. Ghost Talk, Sleepwalking and Kino complete this mini album with the latter being an extraordinary track even to this day.

If, like me, you’ve always treasured your cassette copy of The Covenant, The Sword And The Arm Of The Lord wishing that one day it would be available on CD for an affordable price, then you’ll be a very happy person. An album of sheer bliss, power, aggression, danceability, experimentation and originality. From the opening of The Web the album makes an instant impression. In many people’s eyes, their finest moment. The fine funky bass on Golden Halo and the fragmented pounding drumbeat of Hells Home are shining beacons. The album highlight, I Want You still sounds superb after almost twenty years.

Combined with DVDs in the shape of Live with two performances from 1984, and Gasoline In Your Eye available digitally for the first time, and an additional CD of unreleased tracks and mixes, #8385 is a superb collection for a band that should really be on everyone’s radar. Undoubtedly, one of the most influential acts of the last 35 years.


More info on Cabaret Voltaire go to the page about them on Mute’s Website here. Their official Facebook page is here.

You can also follow Richard Kirk on Facebook here and he has his own Website.

All words by Paul Scott-Bates. More of Paul’s writing on Louder Than War can be found here. Paul’s website is hiapop Blog. Paul is working hard to save Radio Lancashire’s On The Wire, the BBCs longest running alternative music programme. Follow him on twitter as @saveonthewire for all On The Wire news or follow hiapop Blog on Twitter, @hiapop.

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2 comments on “Cabaret Voltaire: #8385 (Collected Works 1983-1985) – album review”

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  1. I personally think the post-Chris Watson stuff was as dreadful as the earlier material was sublime, but each to their own.

  2. I don’t think that post Chris Watson Cabs is dreadful. The Crackdown is a superb album which sounds pretty timeless, although they kind of went in a bit of decline after that. Both Micro-phonies and the Covenant, the Sword and the Arm of the Lord have strong moments, but they are somewhat uneven albums, the strong cuts being offset by somewhat ho-hum songs.

    Still the material here is much better than Code or Groovy Laidback and Nasty which were a low point on their career.

    I do have plenty of time for their last albums when they had fully immersed themselves in techno and acid house. The Conversation should be regarded as a landmark in the same way as people regard Screamadellica as a watershed moment

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