‘The Sum of our Wounds’, a typically dark and dramatic title that you’d expect from someone whose most famous gig is as half of Suicide, doesn’t give much away. However, the mention of “cassette recordings” in the subtitle lets you know exactly what you’re in for. The sixteen short tracks that make up this odd and ends collection are skeletal, experimental, rarely more than half-finished sketches. However, for fans of Rev’s (and Alan Vega’s) revolutionary synth-punk sound, there’s a lot to enjoy here.
It’s unclear if the recordings are chronological, but the first few songs are particularly out there with plenty of wonky keys, processed drums and arpeggiated effects. Dreams has a catchy melodic underpinning, as though it could have been an early attempt at the haunted pop of Suicide’s first album. Laredo is a little more abrasive and Zeitpunkt eventually finds a groove amidst the distortion, but until the first discernible vocals appear on ‘Baby O Baby (Mix)’ it’s an untethered, wavy trip.
The four songs followed with ‘(Mix)’, as well as ‘Whisper (Vocal)’, are alternate versions of tracks that appeared on Rev album solo albums in the early 80s, and their clarity demonstrates why Rev stuck with them. ‘She’s Back’ and ‘Temptation (Mix)’ are fairly contemplative, the former somewhat formless and the latter mixing melody with gloopy electronics – it’s easy to imagine the young Richard D. James and contemporaries being inspired.
There are occasional short interludes that don’t add a whole lot, but the final two songs are possibly the pick of the bunch: ‘Mari (Mix)’ is all keys and beats with a lovely noodling synth, like Casiotone for the Painfully Alone covering Suicide. And closer ‘Whisper (Vocal)’ is a plaintive piano number that is very much in the mould of what Angelo Badalamenti, David Lynch and Julee Cruise would create a few years later. It’s on the prettier end of the Rev spectrum, a trait that’s overlooked in his music, and although his vocals skew toward the indifferent rather than the emotive, there’s even a bit of whistling here!
A lot of now-iconic musicians from the 70s/80s could probably dust off a collection like this in any random trip to the attic, but there’s a twinkle and innovation to even these half-formed ideas. They may not tell the whole story, but they do help show why Rev was and remains so revered.