Review: Martin Rivas – Reliquary


As a staple of the independent New York music scene, often frequenting Rockwood Music Hall, Slane NYC, and a whole host of other places around the Manhattan and Brooklyn area, everyone recognises and respects Martin Rivas. They know the name, they’ve probably jammed with him if not outright collaborated. 
His live band setup could feature any and everyone, whether it’s the Campfire Sessions where he, Craig Meyer a guitar and a means to make rhythm at Slane NYC, jam with all who come through, performing covers and all your favourite sing-a-longs, or the recent sold out Rockwood 2 show in the LES, with Chris Kuffner, Greg Mayo, Patrick Firth, Brian Killeen, Bess Rogers and more.

So when he set up a KickStarter with a $10,000 limit, it’s no surprise to see he not only reached that target but surpassed it easily, reaching $16,156 by close of shop. 

The result was a chance to make Reliquary, an eight track collection of songs (nine if you buy the iTunes special edition) produced by Alex Wong (Vienna Teng, Elizabeth and the Catapult, Paper Raincoat) and made in his own time without rushing and with all the right people involved.

Let’s begin with the bonus song and work our way back. The bonus song is usually a track that isn’t as good as the rest of the work, doesn’t fit the mould of the album and for all intent and purpose is just there to squeeze a bit more money out… except it was chosen by the fans who wanted an updated version of an old favourite – Pray For The Impossible. A song that says “you never know, so pray for the impossible”. For me, this song is synonymous with a hectic night out in the city. Praying to get home, praying to be included in a world full of strangers, praying to make friends… It’s the reminder when you’re down that the impossible does happen, and it’s a song of hope and harmonies, direction and purpose.

The album opens with a piano piece called C’mon While We’re Young, mixing unfamiliar dark chords with a message of not being afraid and taking risks. As it fades we’re immediately rushed into Drumset, AM Radio And Tears – a tale of how Martin got introduced to music from the confines of his room, experiencing and living rock and roll dreams. “Far away is where I’m gonna be”. The shortest track on the album, it is also feels the quickest and unlike his previous albums.

Your Heart Will Be Broken Again was written for one of his younger relatives who had been going through their first heartbreak, not to try and taint their cheery disposition, but to prepare them and let them know that it isn’t the end of the world. That heartache is something that happens but that it gets better and it goes on. It builds us into who we are. “It’s certain to happen, it’s part of existance. Your heart will be broken again and again.” The Brooklyn Accent uses few notes, few chords and relies purely on his voice, his presence for purpose. A homesick song missing the voices of those who live in his hometown. It talks about the diversity of the accent, the languages and angles words, sharpened letters and forgotten consonents of pronunciation in that place he calls home.

No One Knows Me has a folk band vibe to it. The drum work is very subtle without drowning anything out, the strings stretch over and give it a campfire feel towards the middle and its final minute just feels right. Meet Your Father feels like a jam session with a banjo and washboard. Written for his wife, for the times they missed and the things he would’ve liked to be able to do. It’s a quirky love song with age old priorities, signs of respect and heartfelt emotion “does he know his daughter’s all that I dream about?” he asks, before leading into a haunting solo. I think this is one of the stronger songs from the album – the instrumentation, honesty and I think this level of it is quite a rarity now. “I want to be around when he’s around not when he’s away… and into my hand he will place your sweet hand what a day.”

Life’s About To Imitate Art and Believe in Love bring the album to a close, the former questioning if there’s a god looking out for us and how we’ll begin resembling the art around us, the latter encouraging you to believe in love… I see this last song as a counter to Your Heart Will Be Broken Again. Love exists, and is something to experience and believe in. The longest song on the album and a fitting close because if Martin would want to leave anything with us, it’d be love.

The album is out today, 10th July 2012, available from Bandcamp, Amazon and iTunes.

Jon Barker