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Martin Rev

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Album Review

Though it's nowhere near as confrontational or abrasive as his work with Suicide at the time, Martin Rev's self-titled 1979 solo album takes many of the elements of the group's sound and explores them individually: "Mari"'s crisp drum pattern and pretty, naïve synth melody sounds like an extrapolation of the proto-synth pop Rev and Alan Vega were working on at the time, while "Nineteen 86" features the insistent, sibilant drums and ominous drones that became Suicide trademarks. "Baby Oh Baby" could've easily appeared on one of the group's albums, though it's interesting to hear Rev's whispered, monotone delivery instead of Vega's alien-beatnik howl. But Martin Rev isn't just a Suicide album by another name; on many of the songs, Rev indulges his experimental leanings in different ways. "Temptation," the album's seven-minute centerpiece, mixes a wind chime-like melody and gusty synths into a hypnotic, though far from serene, meditation. "Jomo" and "Asia" mine similar territory, juxtaposing layers of synths and stiff percussion for a mechanical but still melodic feel. The bonus and previously unreleased tracks on the 2002 ROIR reissue add more dimension to the album, though not quite as much as Mute's exhaustive (and occasionally exhausting) Suicide reissues. Rev's '50s fetish and a surprising sense of fun emerge on several songs, including the whimsical, oddly melancholy "Coal Train," the rather cutesy "Daydreams," and "Wes," which with its buzzy sax, heavy bass, and synth effects, sounds like the soundtrack to a film noir set on the moon. The 12-minute, largely ambient epic "Marvel" might have been the most cutting-edge track at the time this album was recorded, but it sounds the most dated now — so many other lesser talents did atmospheric soundscapes like this during the '80s that its impact is diluted, though this song does have a creepy paranoia around the edges that makes it a little more distinctive. Overall, Martin Rev sounds like an enjoyable working holiday for Rev; it features lots of interesting ideas that aren't quite fully developed but are still well worth hearing, especially for Suicide fans — as long as they don't expect Suicide-caliber material.

Martin Rev, Martin Rev
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