Man or Monkey was Cassiber's first album. It was released in 1982 on the German label Riskant as a set of two 45 rpm LPs -- a format that turned it into a pricy collector's item. For this first effort, Christoph Anders, Chris Cutler, Heiner Goebbels, and Alfred 23 Harth entered the studio with only a handful of the drummer's lyrics and a few melodic ideas. They improvised, letting structures and arrangements develop by themselves, so to speak, and singer Anders threw in a text when he felt it appropriate. Even on the ReR Megacorp CD reissue, the structure of the four-sided LP remains strongly detectable. Side A presents three short improvised songs. Lyrics are more declamated than sung and the musical flooring is loosely rhythmical but very intense ("Red Shadow" is a highlight). Side B focuses on more prepared songs and Anders' singing. The festive music of "Our Colourful Culture" creates a disgusting contrast with the somber lyrics ("I came from the country/Arriba! Arriba!/They were killing my family/Ha ha ha ha"). "O Cure Me" sets the lyrics from one of Bach's cantatas against a delicate keyboard motif and thunderous clashes of noise. Both of these pieces would remain in the group's live sets until the end ten years later. Side C contains the 16-minute free improvisation "Man or Monkey." It has interesting moments but never really lifts up -- a failed attempt for the most part. Side D contains nice percussion work. Man or Monkey is miles away from the conciseness and strength of A Face We All Know, but it already shows all the ingredients for the maturation of this seminal avant rock group.
AllMusic Review by François Couture