The Genius of Sheffield: Cabaret Voltaire’s Richard H. Kirk

Sir Barken Hyena writes:

It’s interesting how some artists can be enormously influential yet elude public notice, while other lesser types take the spotlight with borrowed ideas. Richard H. Kirk ranks high on that list, but that’s probably just where likes to be.


Kirk is best known as founder and sole remaining member of Cabaret Voltaire, who along with Throbbing Gristle, are accounted the originators of the Industrial music scene. Rising out of the swamp of shuttered factories and unemployed youth, their sound reflected a jaundiced view of the modern miracle. Though made of careless piles of media shrapnel and audio refuse, Cab Volt’s music had an underlying dark beauty and a deep fire within that has stayed with Kirk through a long and incredibly fruitful career.

A genre was spawned but Kirk couldn’t be arsed to stick around, and found himself drawn to the emerging electronic dance music scene. Unknown to him at the time, he was, along with Kraftwerk, a critical beacon for early Detroit artists finding their sound in the same decaying Mad Max world, an ocean away. Like Miles, Kirk’s always been ready to jump ship for a newer field to exploit, often one opened by younger artists. From this Cab Volt in part laid the basis for the merger of Industrial and Techno, a powerful genre that exploded after them and remains potent today.

Post-Cab, Kirk was instrumental in developing the Ambient Techno of the early 90s along with the likes of Aphex Twin and Moby , using about 100 aliases in addition to his own name, most notably Sandoz and Electronic Eye. During this time he brilliantly injected his Jamaican Dub skills into the mix as well. Incredibly, Kirk is always instantly recognizable, quite a feat in the crowded electronic music world.

Kirk is insanely productive, and maintains a high level of quality and creativity. He seems like he was born to sit in front of a mixing desk churning music 24/7. Lately he’s announced the revival of Cabaret Voltaire, inactive since 1994, with yet another stylistic departure. He revealed in a recent interview that “I’ve been describing it as Krautrock meets techno meets guitar feedback. And quite possibly meets Captain Beefheart. Make of that what you will!”


About Sir Barken Hyena

IT professional and veteran of start ups. Life long musician and songwriter. Voracious reader of dead white guys. Lover of food and women.
This entry was posted in Music, Performers and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Genius of Sheffield: Cabaret Voltaire’s Richard H. Kirk

  1. Marc Pisco says:

    His enduring fascination with monodynamic use of that weary old hi-hat sound — Roland, is it? — I do not get. Verfremdungseffekt, schmerfremdungseffekt. Pfft.


  2. And Roland just released another drum machine that replicates the same sound! Face it, it’s with us until we die. I can imagine pulling into a compressed fusion fueling station in 2065 to fuel up my nuclear car, and over the piped in music will be 909 hats and claps.


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