it isn’t without reason that Red Mecca is often referred to as one of Cabaret Voltaire’s most cohesive and brilliant records. There are tangible bumpers (the record is buttressed by squealing/wheezing interpretations of Henry Mancini’s music for Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil), so by that aspect there’s a tangible centre. And taken as a whole, the record contains all the characteristics that have made the Sheffield group such an influential entity when it comes to electronic music of the untethered, experimental variety that isn’t afraid to shake its tail a little. Unlike a fair portion of CV’s studio output, Red Mecca features no failed experiments or anything that could be merely cast off as “interesting.” It’s a taught, dense, horrific slab lacking a lull. Dashes of Richard H. Kirk’s synthesizer are welded to Chris Watson’s tape effects for singed lashes of white noise, best heard on the lurching “Sly Doubt” and the jolting “Spread the Virus.” Throughout, Mallinder’s sinister jibber jabbering punctuates the high-pitched menace. What he’s ranting about is rarely obvious, as the clarity of his voice is often obstructed by the tape effects, synth work, and other random whip-cracks (Watson’s periodic surges of organ are another treat). Judging from his irritated tone, odds are the lyrics have little to do with bunnies jumping over dandelions or anything nearing pleasant — it’s that lack of definition that makes things all the more unsettling. Several tunes have a thick rhythmic drive. The instrumental “Landslide” is painfully short at two minutes, with a bopping machine beat and barely perceptible vocal samples that dart between the left and right channels. A grainy programmed rhythm and Kirk’s sickly guitar manglings dominate the sleazy “Split Second Feeling.” Sick, searing, engrossing. Along with 2X45 and The Living Legends, this is their best offering.