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Martin Rev

Born Martin Reverby (on December 18, 1947, Brooklyn, New York), MARTIN REV was the synth/keyboardist foil to sombre singer ALAN VEGA in the pioneering punk/no wave duo SUICIDE. For most of the 70s, the pair stirred up a stew of sounds, their controversial eponymous debut LP in ’77 guaranteeing their rightful place in rock/pop history.
As SUICIDE passed on their musical prowess to the 80s men machines, only to re-form from time to time (e.g. `A Way Of Life’ in 1988, `Why Be Blue’ in 1992, and swansong `American Supreme’ in 2002), both VEGA and REV spearheaded their own anti-rock’n’roll revolution by unleashing several off-kilter solo albums apiece.
Naming the opening title, `Mari’, after his artist wife “Marev”, 1980 saw the release of the man’s eponymous, predominantly instrumental MARTIN REV {*6} album. Awash with cascading colours like on some mission to pre-empty the thoughts of the Some Bizzare brigade; only the SUICIDE-offspring `Baby O Baby’ added the necessary noir vocal chords to sharpen any smooth edges. Futuristic and cinematic, the nocturnal `Nineteen 86’ was more or less POPOL VUH or krautrock, whilst the other woofers and tweeters – `Temptation’, `Jomo’ et al – naively noodled along without much fuss, or fuzz.
Swapping his robotic roots for industrial post-punk, 1985’s CLOUDS OF GLORY {*6} was more attune to a TANGERINE DREAM soundtrack than anything SUICIDE-al. Music for projection slides or simply irreverent and anti-rock, each slow-burning drone from `Rodeo’ to `Island’ seemed content with only massaging parts of the mind other sounds just couldn’t reach.
Several years down the line, the native American Indian-themed CHEYENNE (1992) {*6} explored different tribal beats and rhythms; the filmic `Wings Of The Wind’ or the hypnotic `Red Sierra’ and `Little Rock’, probably aimed at an imaginary western directed by David Lynch.
1996’s SEE ME RIDIN’ {*6} was arguably REV’s most accessible work of art to date. Incorporating quirky bubblegum-pop and his own twee vocals, the multi-musician Martin took a leaf from ALAN VEGA’s 50s hand-book, to occupy an uneasy territory reminiscent of BUDDY HOLLY under the spell of JOE MEEK; proof in the pudding were the doo-wop `Secret Teardrops’, `Pillars’, `Be Mine’, `Here We Go’, among others.
Crooning like some ANDY WILLIAMS lounge-bar impersonator on an eternal sound-check (for the most part), STRANGEWORLD (2000) {*6} was REV’s echo-y introduction to the post-millennium. Similar in some respects to the late ARTHUR RUSSELL in its “raining-on-prom-night” kudos, `Sparks’, `My Strange World’ and `Chalky’ seemed to be the only pieces not fixated with a “death-to-woo-wop” beat.
With SUICIDE indefinitely put on hold, MARTIN REV recoiled into his industrial boots by way of sixth set, TO LIVE (2003) {*5}. Almost a blueprint from his SUICIDE days, the whispered whims of `In Your Arms’ and the CAN-esque `Black Ice’ were sadly rare highlights among several knob-twiddling excursions from space (e.g. `Lost In The Orbits’, `Places I Go’ and the amusing mirror-ball `Gutter Rock’).
Subsequently working with video artist/painter Stefan Roloff and, in turn, featuring on a RAVEONETTES album, `Pretty In Black’ (2005), REV was finally accruing some latter-day attention for all his yesteryear performances. Turning his visceral vibes up to eleven for 2008’s LES NYMPHES {*7}, there was a sense of intensity on the likes of opening salvo `Sophie Eagle’, the heavy-weight `Triton’ and the uplifting `Narcisse’. Despite adapting or adjusting his hand to different beats and/or genres, it was his eerie combination with wife Mari on the disturbing spoken-word piece, `Valley Of The Butterfly’, that was most profound.
The subsequent death of his missus would take its toll on his next venture: the classically-scored STIGMATA (2009) {*5}. Not a soundtrack per se, although offers might’ve been on the table, its religious, faux orchestral manoeuvres in the dark (`Te Deum’, `Dona Nobis Pacem’, `Sanctus’, etc.) were a million miles from `Frankie Teardrop’ and `Dream Baby Dream’.
Sadly, after a stroke in 2012, his former cohort ALAN VEGA died on July 16, 2016.
© MC Strong/MCS Jul2016

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