Though they're one of the most important groups in the history of industrial and electronic music, Cabaret Voltaire are sometimes forgotten in the style's timeline -- perhaps because they continued recording long after other luminaries (Throbbing Gristle, Suicide, Chrome) called it quits. Also related to the fact is that CV rarely stayed in one place for long, instead moving quickly from free-form experimentalism through arty white-boy funk and on to house music in the late '80s and electronica the following decade. The band, formed by guitarist Richard H. Kirk, bassist Stephen Mallinder, and tape manipulator Chris Watson, were influenced by the Dadaist movement (whence came their name) and as such, came closer to performance art than music during many of their early performances. After several years of recording with no contract, the group signed to the newly formed Rough Trade label in 1978 and began releasing records that alternated punk-influenced chargers with more experimental pieces incorporating tape loops and sampled effects.
Following Watson's departure, the remaining duo inaugurated a new contract with Some Bizzare/Virgin in 1983 by shifting their sound away from raging industro-funk and toward a more danceable form. The singles "Sensoria" and "James Brown" hit the indie charts in 1984, and Cabaret Voltaire moved to EMI/Parlophone in 1986 for The Code. Two years later, the band traveled to Chicago to record Groovy, Laidback & Nasty with Marshall Jefferson, one of the mavericks in the new house sound blowing up in the British charts. After another break of several years, the new-electronica label Instinct released a trio of CV LPs during 1993 and 1994, after which the band's future appeared cloudy. Kirk continued his solo career (recording as Electronic Eye and Sandoz, as well as under his own name), while Mallinder moved to Australia. A handful of compilations surfaced during the early 2000s: the two-volume The Original Sound of Sheffield sets (featuring A-sides, 12" mixes, and album highlights), Conform to Deform '82/'90 (a three-disc box containing B-sides, alternate mixes, and unreleased tracks), and Methodology '74/'78 (three discs of raw archival material). During the late 2000s and early 2010s, Kirk released a handful of live CV recordings and oversaw an extensive line of reissues, including the box set #8385 Collected Works 1983-1985 and the anthology #7885 Electropunk to Technopop, through Mute. ~ John Bush