Of all the bands that Marcus and Mica Acher are in, the Tied & Tickled Trio are probably the ensemble with the comparitively most releases who do the least amount of globetrotting. The primary purpose of this release is the hour-long live concert for Observing Systems, filmed in April of 2004, but the bonus material of music videos, live TV appearances, and a CD of unreleased material makes for a fantastic package that will please nearly every fan.
Section 25 were always a difficult proposition, because they were really two bands. First, there was the late-1970s incarnation typified by the debut album Always Now, produced by Martin Hannett. At this phase of the band's career, the group wore the Factory uniform through and through, pumping out bleak, claustrophobic noise-rock owing a tremendous debt to Joy Division. This version of Section 25 has not aged well at all, and only record collectors and Factory fetishists actually like the music. The other Section 25 began around 1983-4, after some personnel shifts and a complete 180-degree change in musical strategies. Instead of sour-faced, doomy boredom, the band embraced keyboard programming, synthesizers and the Roland 303, producing excellent, influential early techno that has held up surprisingly well through the years. For those who enjoy charting the connections between the proto-electro of Detroit/Chicago and the more stiff, angular white-boy dance and funk of the early 1980s Manchester scene, Section 25 are ground zero. This DVD contains both incarnations of the band, but leans heavily on the latter phase of their chronology, which is more than fine by me. The DVD begins with a nine-song set captured at London's ICA in the summer of 1980, and it's predictably faceless and largely uninteresting. Then there is a set of clips from various venues dating from 1981 to 1984, and things start to get interesting. A promotional video for "Looking From A Hilltop" is suitably retro and quite a lot of fun, even though the band is just miming to the recorded version of the song. The best material comes from two shows dating from 1985, one at Chicago's Metro Club and another at Prince's First Avenue club in Minneapolis. Section 25 is at the height of their powers here, unleashing addictively futuristic proto-acid techno with dual live drumming, breathy vocals, dramatic keyboard melodies and a galaxy of weird sound effects. Even at this stage, however, Section 25 were still performing more rock-oriented material, though it has now been retrofitted with banks of synthesizers, Human League-style. The video and sound quality varies wildly across the disc, but most of the best performances are watchable and enjoyable. At over two hours, this is a generous package and a must-have for fans of this nascent period of techno.
Soleilmoon's new DVD release of 1998's Live at La Luna VHS adds absolutely nothing to the original release, sharing the same set list and running time, and boasting absolutely zero extras. Most disappointingly, the DVD does not even have chapter stops, making it impossible to cue forward or back at anything more than double speed. Would it have killed Soleilmoon to put some chapter stops between songs?
To round out their ongoing series of Cabaret Voltaire reissues, Mute has released Doublevision Present Cabaret Voltaire on DVD. Originally issued through Factory in 1984, this DVD is identical to the original VHS release: the same 14 videos in the exact same sequence. It's a shame they couldn't find something extra to slap onto the digital version, but it's still a welcome reissue for those who have no patience for the deterioration of their VHS collection. Doublevision was a communications company founded by Kirk, Mallinder and Paul Smith in 1982, with the express purpose of releasing music-based video for an affordable price, eventually transforming it into one of the first explicitly audiovisual record labels. This is not surprising for Cab Volt, who were always two steps ahead of their contemporaries, it seems. For these 14 videos, Cabaret Voltaire utilized nascent video editing technology, splicing together television clips, performance videos and archival film footage, gluing it all together with low-tech early video effects. The interesting thing about watching these videos in 2004 is that the primitive video techniques, which probably seemed piss-poor at the time of their release, now play into the current avant-garde video art obsession with early 1980's low budget pirate video aesthetic. 20 years on, this collection of random video cut-ups and ugly, jagged editing techniques seems positively vanguard. The tracks presented are from the finest period Cabaret Voltaire: "Diskono," "Obsession," "Nag Nag Nag," and "Seconds Too Late," among others, are represented. Televised nature and anthropology programs are intercut with images of war, death and destruction from new broadcasts. Clips of Leni Riefenstahl films and videos or surgeries rub shoulders with grainy, decayed video images superimposed over each other in a weird Burroughsian collage of overlapping transmissions, giving rise to a mysterious "third mind" of accidental coincidences and synchronicities. As experimental video, it all works amazingly well. As music videos, the effect is somewhat more muted, as the edits often out of sync with the beat structures of the music. Still, it would be hard to imagine a more appropriate visual accompaniment to Cabaret Voltaire's abrasive, subterranean, low-fidelity electronic music.