Martin Rev – Clouds Of Glory (2015) review
Martin Rev – Clouds Of Glory (Permanent Records, 2015)
Now most people are probably more familiar with Martin Rev, also known as Martin Reverby, for his work with the band Suicide, but he also has an almost schizophrenically eclectic back catalog of material. Now, this isn’t to imply that he’s crazy or untalented, as obviously he’s far from either of those things. It is instead, to point out the jaw-dropping versatility that Reverby is capable of as an artist. A lot of people like to label use descriptors like, “it’s like a Suicide album/song BUT…” and there’s no need for such things. I mean, Suicide was supposedly the first band to use the term Punk Music to describe their music for god’s sake, and this is not punk music. This work, while it does resemble his work with Suicide in the vestigial sense as it’s somewhat in the same vein, has a completely different feel – at least to this reviewer. As it’s instrumental, Rev seems to have chosen to move in an alternate direction with this material, trusting his gut instincts about the material, favoring certain differing aesthetics and a broader sense of identity than anything he did with Suicide. I think that a lot of this is because his work with Suicide was of course accompanied by vocals. Clouds Of Glory seems to be Rev stepping out from behind the shadow of words, which can sometimes be more of a hindrance than a help, depending on what you’re trying to get across and convey with music, and more importantly in this case, depending on the feelings that you’re trying to express. These tracks seem like they would just as at place on a soundtrack as they would on a standalone album. In fact, the album reminds me a lot of early 80s action film soundtracks in the best possible sense, and least contrived ways. The throbbing beats of the album opener “Rocking Horse” just never let up once they start, sampled noises and gargling synthesizers burst through the veil of thickening sound from time to time with small enunciations of melody in a seemingly lopsided conversation between the two. The stuttering feedback loop that backs the entire track is like a dense soup of mired grit and grime, trapping your ear in a pit of delightful misanthropic musical quagmires. I’m still not really sure if “Rocking Horse” is a song, or actually a discarded experiment by Brad Fiedel devised for some abandoned film project. Either way, I’m glad as hell “Rocking Horse” found its way onto Clouds Of Glory. The bell like progression that ring throughout the song are the only thing that keeps it from going completely sideways several times, with rhythms that seem to unhinge and then move perfectly back into place following sporadic outbursts. The relentless beat of “Rocking Horse” finally fades and gives way to the tidal wave like openings of “Parade”. A single pulsating plasma beam of blackened low end synthesizer joins in a blaring Gregorian chant with noise after noise, decibel after decibel, stacking on top of each other like a fifty-car pileup. Slowly fragmented stuttering bursts of sound and noise start to pop up in the song, each time stranger and more abstract than before. There’s a pensive dread that builds from the slowly moving mountain of sound that is “Parade”, and as it picks up more and more steam, getting louder and louder, more and more in your face, the shape of what you’re confronted with finally begins to take shape. It’s a hulking juggernaut of skull battering bottom end. Bass begins to drip from every possible orifice of your speakers, chocking out anything that’s not slipped into the tight little pockets of slight repentant mercy of the bass. “Parade” is like staring up at a mile high wave of water moving towards your city. You know you should turn and run, it should horrify and shock you. But instead, your legs refuse to work and you just stand there looking, unbelieving at the horrible beauty that you’re starkly confronted with. Once the onslaught of “Parade” is finished the Rev lets up a little and hits you with an unapologetically sappy pop love song progression in the form of “Whisper”. I recently heard a synthesized tribute to Angelo Badalamenti’s work on Twin Peaks and this actually reminds me a lot of that – you know, except that this predates that show by more than a decade and all… There’s a tender softness to the key work on “Whisper”. Everything is smooth and soft, layered so as to be like silk on the ears. “Rodeo” on the other hand kicks things back into hard and heavy mode real quick though. Slamming on the accelerator, a thundering blast of repetitive bass and crunchy explosive beats carpet bomb the landscape into oblivion, accompanied all the while by what I can only describe as the sounds of an oncoming alien apocalypse. You can hear the ships as they enter the atmosphere, laser and plasma beams (likely in the 40-watt range) levelling entire cities if you just listen. “Rodeo” puts any 8-bit band out there today, trying to ride the wave of nostalgia of classic video games, to utter shame. When you hear songs like this you realize there were just some individuals born to write certain kinds of music, and this seems what The Rev was destined for though he may have dabbled in everything else at one point or another. The disjoined paranoia that seeps from the song like the stench of fear on a cornered rat is overpowering at times; buzzing and whirring sounds escape from one side of the mix to the other, carrying in tow wakes of shimmering gossamer tones that they sprinkle throughout the dark expanses of madness. The farther you get into “Rodeo” the more it feels like a video game nearing its end. Things are moving at lightning fast speeds, nearly teleporting at times. There’s sweat beading up on your brow, and you almost begin to question how much longer you can take it. It’s overwhelming your senses and the pressure it starting to make your heart beat like a jackhammer in your chest… At six minutes the song finally begins to withdraw its tendrils of subconscious angst from your brain and begins a new transplant with “Melatron”. This album was released in 1985, twenty-nine years ago at this point and it’s astounding how well it’s aged. The music is so dynamic and fluid, shifting like water from one place to another in “Melatron” and Rev makes it seem simple. The shortest song on Clouds Of Glory is four minutes, and most of the rest, “Melatron” included are around six minutes long. It’s hard to keep people’s attention, or at least my attention at least, that long when you’re working with really abstract notions and soundscapes. It can just get into some really murky, monotonous, boring territory for me. Rev manages to avoid the regular trappings with his music though, as there’s absolutely nothing regular about this man or his music, and there never has been. “Melatron” is another blatant rejection of the regular idea of how a song should be constructed or executed, something that Martin Rev still continues to toy with to this day. Throughout innumerable collaborations, projects and releases his strong stance as an unbending, uncompromising artist has remained intact. And listening to something like “Melatron” you can see why he’s remained so true to his own musical vision – because it’s a damned interesting one. The album finishes off with the titular “Clouds Of Glory” track, and holy mother! This thing sounds like what The Warriors soundtrack should have sounded like! The street grit is just oozing out of pore. Pensive electronic percussion bites and stings the background of the song, before echoing and rocketing right at the listener in the mix. Rev’s usage of creative mixing and subtle panning on the album is extremely impressive. Clouds Of Glory sounded great on my speakers. Through a set of headphones though, songs like “Clouds Of Glory” really come alive. Clouds Of Glory really seems like one of those albums designed by another guy out there who loves to stick on a set of headphones and just block out reality for a few minutes. I don’t know how else to describe what “Clouds Of Glory” sounds like. It’s fun. There’s a truly bad ass feel to this song. The bone crunching blows of synthesizer pummel the listener over the head like a lead pipe, while the entire time the background of the song sounds like it might just pull out a knife and shank you without warning. Clouds Of Glory ends almost exactly as it began, with an unexpectedly aggressive attack, challenging the listener and making them conform to the music, not the other way around. While there are a lot of reissues and stuff going on it’s nice to know that labels like Permanent Records are doing their best to shine a light on some of the truly overlooked bedrocks of music. The heritage of a lot of stuff going on right now is taken for granted and folks like Permanent are trying their best to make sure that while people look back, they examine some of the people who were so important they got overlooked in the past. Not that Martin Rev was overlooked. He’s enjoyed a long-lasting, fruitful career and this album is great evidence as to why, this album just hasn’t always been available. Permanent has done another bang-up job and it sounds and looks great. It’s limited to only 500 copies world-wide though, so I wouldn’t sleep on this as no wave and ambient dark wave electronica are two things you just can’t keep on the shelves these days. There’s links below to check out some of the album and of course to pick yourself up some wax. Oh, and did I mention that if you buy it from Permanent you can get the super limited Silver Wax Vinyl? What about the fact that the Silver Wax Vinyl is limited to only a 150 copies? Don’t sleep. The color version isn’t available anywhere else and it won’t be around long so make sure and secure your copy today folks!
– Listen to some music here: https://soundcloud.com/permanentrecords/martin-rev-whisper-clouds-of-glory-lp-perm-047
– Buy your records here: http://www.permanentrecordschicago.com/store/p341/LP_-_Martin_Rev_-_Clouds_Of_Glory_%2830th_Anniversary_Reissue!%29.html
Review made by Roman Rathert/2015
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