“What’s Goin’ On” is the new single from Cabaret Voltaires’ upcoming album, Shadow of Fear, due on November 20 via Mute Records. It will be the first Cabaret Voltaire record in 26 years, and the first now that the outfit is down to one member, Richard H. Kirk.
It’s an electronic dance track built around a simple synth horn pattern and drum loop, with a lot of small details mixed into the background. Spoken vocal samples play a prominent part. “You gotta be outta your mind,” “Well, take a look” and “What’s goin’ on?” are the phrases repeated the most, but there’s also a few repetitions of the pitch-shifted sentences, “They put two corpses down there, and the heads up there” and “You’re either with me or against me.”
Kirk commented on the verbal content via press release, “The current situation didn’t have much of an influence on what I was doing – all the vocal content was already in place before the panic set in – but maybe due to my nature of being a bit paranoid there are hints in there about stuff going a bit weird and capturing the current state of affairs.”
He also mentioned that their music has always been left open to interpretation. “Surrealism has always been really important to Cabaret Voltaire, and that’s still present too.”
Cabaret Voltaire began as a trio in 1973, with Kirk on guitar and synthesizers, Stephen Mallinder on bass and vocals and Chris Watson on tapes. Watson left the group in 1981 to work in television and later formed The Hafler Trio with Andrew McKenzie. Mallinder left the group in 1995 and has since participated as a member of various groups, including Wrangler, who released a synth album called A Situation earlier this year. He also released a solo album last year called Um Dada.
Kirk was allowed to keep the name, and played his first solo show as Cabaret Voltaire in 2014 at the Berlin Atonal festival. The idea for a new Cabaret Voltaire album began then, Kirk explained. “The mission statement from the off was no nostalgia. Normal rules do not apply. Something for the 21st Century. No old material.”
Two other singles have been released in advance of Shadow of Fear so far, “Vasto” and “The Power (Of Their Knowledge).” The last album Kirk released was a solo album called Dasein, in 2017. He has been releasing solo records since Cabaret Voltaire was still a trio, in 1980.