Richard H Kirk

Resident archivist Jack Dangers rediscovers an old favourite by sorely-missed Cabaret Voltaire mainstay Richard H Kirk, and it’s on cassette…

This month, I picked a cassette out of my collection – Richard H Kirk’s first solo album, the 1980 release ‘Disposable Half-Truths’, which I really liked when it first came out. I recently listened to it again on YouTube – because, I have to admit, I haven’t got a cassette player handy – and it reminded me just how good it is.

The tracks that impressed me most are what you might call the sound pieces. The first piece, ‘Synesthesia’ is almost ambient, but overall the album is far too noisy and beat-driven to be described as ambient, and too abstract to be thought of as songs. They’re tape experiments, really, all based around manipulating tape – using loops, slowing it down, making it go backwards, making it noisy. 

There’s a bit of clarinet on the track ‘Information Therapy’. I always liked Kirk’s clarinet playing, but he abandoned it on Cabaret Voltaire records after ‘Extended Play’. It’s so expressive, you can get all kinds of sounds out of it, by biting the reed for example. He’d send it through all these effects, and the EMS Synthi Hi-Fli. I missed it after he put it down, and there wasn’t much guitar after that either.

‘Disposable Half-Truths’ was recorded at Western Works, but the Cabs spent years earlier recording in an attic somewhere in Sheffield, making music before they put anything out. Some of that material was released on another tape, Cabaret Voltaire’s ‘1974 – 1976’, which I also bought around the same time. I’d love to know where that attic was, so I could go and look at it on Google Earth.

The tapes were released by Throbbing Gristle on their Industrial Records label, and advertised for sale in the classifieds in the back pages of Melody Maker or one of the other weekly music papers. It was the only way you could get them, they weren’t for sale in the shops. I recently went on Discogs to look at the Industrial Records catalogue and I was surprised by just how many tapes they had put out, including quite a few I didn’t know about.

Both the Richard H Kirk and the Cabaret Voltaire tapes have been re-released on CD and vinyl so they’re easy to get hold of. If you want the original cassettes, though, be prepared to pay quite a bit.

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