Former Cabaret Voltaire member Richard H. Kirk is widely regarded as one of techno's busiest men, a distinction he's picked up through a release schedule that keeps discographers sweating and die-hard fans near bankruptcy. No doubt, that work ethic developed during Kirk's time with CV, who, in their nearly 20 years together, released as many albums and even more EPs. Kirk's even more productive as a solo artist, with countless released credited to Sandoz, Electronic Eye, and works released under his own name, as well as collaborations with British DJ Parrot (as Sweet Exorcist).
While the Sheffield-based Cabaret Voltaire began as an electronics-and-tape-loops outfit with obvious ties to other English post-industrial experimentalists like Throbbing Gristle, Einsturzende Neubauten, and Chrome, the group eventually penetrated a pop group context while retaining the edge of dystopia and isolation at the core of their earlier work. Kirk's solo work has evolved along similar lines, although he works more toward integrating technology with more humanitarian concerns. His stylistic palette -- mostly house, early techno, and ambient -- and his status as a fixture of the early days of the Warp label pegged Kirk as an evangelist of "intelligent techno," but his solo work actually comes off closer to sample-heavy ambient house and techno. His affection for African and tribal percussion and thematics connects his various works in obvious ways.
Kirk's first solo effort under his own name was Disposable Half-Truths, a cassette released by Throbbing Gristle's Industrial Records in 1980. Similar to early CV, the release combined distorted vocals, primitive drum machines, and sheets of noisy guitars and electronics. Three years later, CV's Doublevision label released Kirk's double LP Time High Fiction. In 1985, Kirk collaborated with Peter Hope for a single called "Leather Hands." The following year, Kirk released two full-lengths on Rough Trade: a dark industrial pop record called Black Jesus Voice and a more experimental, sample-driven album titled Ugly Spirit. This album focused on ethnic influences more than any of Kirk's previous releases, and pointed to the directions he'd take in his future projects.
In 1987, Kirk and Hope released a full-length titled Hoodoo Talk; Wax Trax! released the album in the United States. Cabaret Voltaire continued releasing music, and moved in a direction more inspired by techno and house, influences that also figured into Kirk's solo and collaborative projects. CV teamed up with Ministry for a one-off single as Acid Horse, and bleep-house duo Sweet Exorcist released some of the earliest (and most influential) singles on Warp. Kirk started a label called Intone for some of his own works, and its first release was the Limbo EP by his dub-influenced Sandoz moniker, which went on to release several highly regarded albums on Touch. Under his own name, he released Virtual State (1994) and The Number of Magic (1995) on Warp. Ambient techno albums as Electronic Eye followed on Beyond. Mute reissued Kirk's early albums on their sublabel The Grey Area, and Blast First (also affiliated with Mute) released Kirk's limited experimental album Knowledge Through Science in 1998. Touch released Kirk's Darkness at Noon (1999) and LoopStatic (2000).
Kirk then released much of his output under Intone, including albums as Blacworld, Biochemical Dread, and Digital Terrestrial, as well as several compilations made up of material by various Kirk projects. In 2004, as Mute reissued some of CV's earliest output, the label released Kirk's Earlier/Later: Unreleased Projects Anthology 74-89. In 2014, Die Stadt released the triple-CD compilation The Many Dimensions of Richard H. Kirk, which included three early-2010s albums that were intended to be released by the label but instead appeared as digital releases on Intone. In 2016, Mute released #7489: Collected Works 1974-1989, an eight-CD box set of Kirk's early solo albums and rarities, as well as #9294: Collected Works 1992-1994, a five-CD box similarly compiling his early work as Sandoz. ~ Sean Cooper & Paul Simpson