It is December, and here is an unforgettable drop in a peculiar Advent calendar for those who believe in synthpop, those who celebrate Kraftwerk divinity and Their sons and daughters on earth. With no intentions of being unrespectful or irreverent, on the December’s unprecise date of 1977, forty years ago, Suicide released their homonymous debut album on Red Star Records. The Holy Trinity hit NYC’s streets, rock and electronic music clashed to hybridize in spirit forever.
Artist/sculptor Alan Vega and free-jazz keyboardist Martin Rev were abrasive in cold speech since the beginning at Mercer Arts Center in the early 70s, inciting people to confrontation and creating a discord feeling between love and hate, an arty controversy for a few and a joke for the most. Vega (Brooklyn June 23, 1938 – July 16, 2016) created ‘situations’ over the gaining and repetitive Rev’s white-noise. The Velvet Underground got an extension in rhythm machines, primitive synthesizers able to produce a two-note drone. Suicide was groundbreaking electronic proto-punk and anticipating the No Wave scene. They were the artist of the freeform, too adventurous for regular venue’s tolerance; they decided a period of hibernation in 1973. Kraftwerk took USA airwaves by surprise in 1975 as well as the Western World fascinated with the futuristic and robotic sound of their amazing Kling Klang Studio productions.
New York City was swallowing the imported pill of The Sex Pistols in 1977 while ignoring local bands like Richard Hell & The Voivoids from whose staging attitudes and musical contents Malcolm McLaren took notes to restyle in London. Everything had moved from SoHo to Bowery, around CBGB. By the time, Television, The Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie and Patti Smith had signed to major labels. There were a Lower East Side looks walking in stiletto hills, color treated hair, leather jackets, and sunglasses, in as recognizable aesthetics as uniformized, and all were saying it is all chewed up and processed. The city had lost nerve from thunder. It was the right time and the right place for a milestone. Alan Vega‘s Presleyish vocals were ready to transform Suicide from a performance-project into a recording act, with a defining set of songs in a debut album released through Martin Thau‘ imprint, the ex-manager of New York Dolls, and produced by Craig Leon, responsible for launching The Ramones and Blondie’s careers. “Suicide” is still one of the most original avant-garde music that came out from the city in the epitome of a convulsive decade that shook everything up for good.
On the other side of the Atlantic, in the cradle city of Düsseldorf for electronic music, a move was refusing the ‘old gods’ in venues like Ratinger Hof, home of a new generation of punks acts, like D.A.F, Die Krupps, La Düsseldorf and Der Plan. The so-called ‘Neue Deutsche Welle’ had feedback from London where they attempted to grow in the new effervescent scene of post-punk. All of them were aware of Suicide and their bursts of creativity. Some stepped the industrial wave for European Electro and Techno as the new directions, with Detroit and Chicago on the horizon.
One year far from the opening of Mudd Club in Tribeca -the trashy, full of vacant meat warehouses then, the high rated district now-, signs of a creative counteroffensive emerged. No matter what it was but crudity, a confrontational noise served in rare, pure nihilism, from James Chance & The Contortions to Lydia Lunch through Arto Lindsay‘s DNA and Lounge Lizards. Tagged as ‘No Wave’ got preferences in the funk, jazz, blues, avant-garde to Defunkt rock stereotypes.
You can listen to plenty recognition to Suicide contribution by many other artists, but the latest touchy one is in Nicolas Jaar‘s album “Sirens” (Other People, 2016). From the shades of a Manhattan apartment, ‘The Governor’ talks about pleasant Time Square chants to avoid. It is not only a homage to the duo but NYC creative richness in devoted perspective.