Reissue: Martin Rev: Martin Rev (Tapete Records/Bureau B)

Suicide synthman freaks out the neighbours with occasionally beautiful, often alarming set of post-punk electro dirges

Released Mar 22nd, 2024 via Tapete Records / By Ben Wood
Reissue: Martin Rev: Martin Rev (Tapete Records/Bureau B) For pretty much their entire career there was nothing more punk than oddball NY duo Suicide. Martin Rev's tranced-out, minimal electro drones and vocalist Alan Vega's spectral crooning were unique and spookily affecting, but only a handful of visionaries and weirdos saw the point til decades later.

The band's later years saw them win cult acclaim, but in 1980, when synth magus Rev released this eponymous debut shortly after Suicide's second LP, he was no-one's idea of a superstar in waiting.

Not that he gave a shit. Without Vega to sugar the pill with his 'Roy Orbison in hell' melodicism, Rev took a further right turn. There are moments of beauty and accessibility here, but for most of this half-hour, six-track collection, industrial brutalism, proto acid-house and unsettling weirdness are the order of the day.

When this odd, dank collection came out, New York's underground scene was in the grip of No Wave, a scene which could get pretty gnarly at times - and this slice of gritty, damaged futurism fitted right in. It deals in atmospheres, not songs, while its one-finger melodies and punishing drum patterns laid down a trail for Aphex Twin and all manner of disaffected laptop-manglers to follow. It may be uneasy listening, but strands of its DNA have found their way into the darker, odder byways of electronic music.

This is DIY minimalism in extremis. Rev uses the most primitive of technology - a truly cheap-sounding drum machine, a synthesiser of limited range... and that's about it. But when he's in the mood, this is enough to create magic. Gorgeous opener Mari's pulses and arpeggiating flourishes conjure up a mood of beauty and romance that sneaks up on us. It's a tribute to Rev's wife (sadly no longer with us) and a very lovely one.

The remaining tracks utlilise Mari's less-is-more aesthetic to very different ends. The throbbing sex groove of Baby O Baby features the album's only lyrics, and even these are pretty rudimentary ("Oh baby O Baby / Tonight, tonight..."). Avant-garde and funkier elements balance out nicely, and the result is a sordid treat.

However, from track three onwards, the ride gets bumpy. Nineteen 86 reminds us that 1980 was a peak era for industrial noise, moody post-punk and all sorts of glum, mopey business. And goths. Lots of goths. It's a bit of a challenge this one, though if it is trying to be ominous, it definitely succeeds.

The album's epic, the seven minute long Temptation, throws more ingredients into the mix, and the result is a compelling piece that builds and builds. In places, and not just because of its title, it seems reminiscent of Arthur Baker-era New Order (never a bad thing). The more maximalist approach hints at the dancier, fuller approach Rev would take on his wonderful Les Nymphes album some years later (indeed, over the years, Rev's output has been wildly eclectic).

The album concludes with an armed stand-off. Jomo is another industrial assault on our sanity, though it posesses a cavernous groove of sorts. You could dance to this, and the even more uncompromising closer Asia, I guess - but only if you have a very odd sense of rhythm.

Overall, this is a hugely inconsistent record, with one moment of genius and two more tunes well worth a listen. However, the best bits show that Rev was a perverse, mercurial, stubborn old bastard well worth keeping an eye on. He still is. 3/5