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Sunday, 30 January 2011

Review: Richard H. Kirk - Disposable Half-Truths (Released 1981 on Industrial and then later reissued on Grey Area of Mute)

First put online on the Head Heritage website in 2004

This was the debut solo work from Cabaret Voltaire's most enigmatic member and was actually recorded in 1977/8.

It was also the penultimate release on Throbbing Gristle's Industrial Records 'cassette series', the final being C.Voltaire's "1974-1976".
These releases could be seen to be a sign of respect from the Gristle camp, as Kirk and his cohorts, Chris Watson and Stephen Mallinder, had been crafting their own brand of experimental electronic music a year or two before the formation of TG in 1975.

This is a great album in that it is all performed and recorded with a limited amount of analogue equipment that today would be tagged 'primitive'. That said, Kirk at the time, was in possession of such exquisite electronic toys such as the 'EMS synthi Hi-Fli' which he used to great effect via his electric guitar and the manipulation of other sound sources, whilst picking up the baton of Brian Eno's infamous statement from 1973 that 'the recording studio is also an instrument and should be used as such'.

The tracks on this album are of a more free-form nature than on the early Cabs albums of the same period.
In the past, when asked by an intrigued journalist to describe himself, he would reply- "I'm the world's most paranoid man"- this statement, together with his love of the atmosphere contained in the classic early 1960s TV series 'The Outer Limits', casts an underlying sheen on to these other-worldly compositions.
Of course, some tracks could be mistaken for lost Voltaire gems, but they have Kirk's personal slant sewn into them.

Opening with the startling sound of processed radio interference, you are thrown into a twilight world of echoed guitars and various synth twitches, reverberations and hums that form "Synesthesia".
Although Kirk performs and shapes all the sounds here, some voices sound like Mallinder has contributed and at the end of the first track, the phrase "things go quite wrong....sometimes" 
-sounds like P-Orridge himself may have paid a visit.

"Outburst" travels deeper into the twilight forest and contains a very spooky sounding tape of a school choir which sends a chill up the spine.
"Information Therapy" uses dirt infested drum machine and gargled dalek voice treatments while electronic trills add to the urgent and well... paranoid surge that makes it a more alarming concoction than the previous tracks.

The brilliant "Magic Words Command" uses a more cleaner drum machine sound and a fantastic use of just three legato synth notes which float above the eerie backwards mutant voice, while sped-up electronics franticly scuttle around.

"Thermal Damage" sounds like a small sub-station on a side road is about to burst as it teeters to the edge and back.
"Plate Glass Replicas" sounds very odd in that it's slightly out of tune and time, whilst Kirk whips a distorted 'dan electro sitar-guitar' type lead line out of his Hi Fli (!), before a quick bit of EMS filter closes the lid.

"Insect Friends Of Allah" has an obvious (but not crass) middle eastern theme with a nervous guitar sound and a treated keyboard sound that sounds like a distorted mellotron, but is probably a synth, but who cares, it certainly does the trick.

More twisted, gnarled vocal sounds and loping electronic percussives usher in "Scatalist", which has strange tempo changes which lead to distorted guitar/synth interweaving while whistling and shunted blocks of melted sound have a great hallucinatory feel.
"False Erotic Love" could have been twice as long as it has a strange dream-like quality, it features a sped up voice repeating "no fucking chance at all" - well, I got my answer!

"L.D.50" and "L.D.60" could have originally been one track and again uses a strange sped-up voice (that great south yorkshire accent too!), while the sounds pulses along with determination.
The closer is "Amnesic Disassociation" which actually sounds like Throbbing Gristle (or is that the other way around?) with it's wobbling half wah wah-ed bass guitar notes and slices of cut-up voices and swelling high pitched electronics. All the sounds and aural twists jostle for space until they all receed back, leaving you intrigued, enchanted and wanting more. 
The overall feel of this recording is so enchanting.

This album was released on CD in 1992 by (The Grey Area of) Mute and has new artwork, including some great collage stuff from Kirk's archive..... from somewhere deep within his Sheffield lair.

Written by Tim Jones june 2004

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