Saturday, 22 August 2015

Doublevision Present: Cabaret Voltaire

I spent much of this week revisiting my Cabaret Voltaire records, mostly Mix-Up thru to 2x45, an extraordinary run of albums from the late 70's that nowadays sound like transmissions from another planet. So this afternoon, I grabbed some time to catch the Cabs' 1982 video Doublevision Present: Cabaret Voltaire, an 86min cut-up of found footage showcasing various Cabaret Voltaire obsessions - newsreel footage of civic disorder, 50's B-movies, Third Reich propaganda films, gory surgical films, wildlife footage, mondo travelogues and all of it filmed by a VHS camcorder filming a TV screen which lends the footage a heavy abrasive visual texture, with monitor refresh lines, tracking noise, video glitches and crude video mixing effects enthusiastically included. Watching the film today (on DVD!) I remembered a line in Videodrome, where Max Renn cautions: "In Brazil, Central America, those kinds of places, making underground videos is considered a subversive act". The Doublevision was certainly underground - it was one of the very first independently produced long-form music videos, at a time when the major labels showed little interest in this emerging format. And subversive too - when I first saw the video in the early 90's, I was astonished to see that some snippets of hardcore pornography had been snuck in, albeit obscured somewhat under a blizzard of video noise.

The 1990 reissue of the tape was in fact granted an E rating, or exempt from a BBFC age classification which boggles the mind. Another exciting thing about the tape was at one point the two members of Cabaret Voltaire are seen standing before a projection of A Clockwork Orange - Kubrick's film was at that time virtually impossible to see in the UK and Ireland, so it was something of a treat. Various snippets of the Doublevision video are available to watch on youtube of course, but if you feel inclined the DVD is still in print. For a truly psychotic night's viewing, one could pair it up with Detroit avant-rockers Destroy All Monsters' Grow Live Monsters DVD, a compilation of surreal super 8 and 16mm home movies, concert footage and other wacky stuff...

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