Eyeless In Gaza
Back from the Rains
((C) BRED 69, June 27 1986, Lp/Cassette) & (Cd BRED 69, July 1989 (reissue March 7 1994) , Cd)
by David Elliott
Back from obscurity come Eyeless, into … obscurity. Not that there’s even a hint of the self-indulgence (good or bad) of something like Pale Hands – Eyeless in ’86 are the pop group they have always threatened to be.
What stops them? Is it fear, honesty, disinterest, house complacency? Maybe they just lack the incompetence to become half asleep.
Eyeless will never fully cross that bridge. If the music is becoming ever more accessible to a possibly bemused public, Bates’ lyrics remain too indirect, too personal to cut it with the “feel the heat, disco beats” of this world.
Instead, and as always, the duo offer a collection of songs which arouse the most contrasting emotions: ‘Between These Dreams’, a painful memory never to be effaced; the soaring optimism of ‘New Love Here’ with words to open your summer windows to; the bittersweet surrender of ‘Evening Music’ (“So like a lie, a stab in the back. Oh I know you well … the evening music that you make”).
If Eyeless’s new LP doesn’t quite fulfill the promise of the last two singles, Sun Bursts In and Welcome Now, or retain the sketchy innocence of Drumming the Beating Heart, it is still embarrassingly good stuff.
A modest triumph of heart over head.
Review 2Eyeless In Gaza: Interesting Avant-Pop
Back from the Rains (Cherry Red/UK) is Eyeless In Gaza’s first lp release since 1983’s Rust Red September. The English duo was formed in 1981 by Martyn Bates and Peter Becker. Their first release was Photographs as Memories, an abstract work of minimal melodies and primal sream sincerity. Bates’ vocals on Photos are raw and vibrant, driven by Becker’s ambitious beginner’s approach to backing instrumentals. But behind their avant garde stance was a pop band yearning to cut loose. Five years and six albums later find Eyeless in Gaza striking a balance between art and the mainstream. Back from the Rains’ opening track ‘Twilight’ is a blast of unabashed pop, from its chattery rhythms and horn charts to Bates’ strident vocal delivery. Most of the album is full of sparkling piano melodies and lovely, quirky arrangements. Rains on cassette is a chrome dioxide double-play affair; it also contains the 1982 Eyeless release Drumming the Beating Heart. Their most most obscure and obtuse lp is Pale Hands I Loved So Well (Uniton/Norway), a mostly instrumental work of random drones with an ethereal feel. Fans of Felt, Nick Drake and Robert Wyatt will love Eyeless in Gaza’s Back from the Rains.
Since the beginning of the Eighties, the Warwickshire duo of Martyn Bates and Pete Becker have been producing highly individual music which I feel rises well above the average or predictable.
Back in 1981, Eyeless in Gaza came to my attention as one of the new breed of musically inventive groups who were breathing life into the post-punk era. Their music was brittle, combining organ sound, jagged electric and acoustic guitars and intensely emotional vocals. They had a devotional almost religious aspect to their music and their first three albums were adrenalin rushes of sound.
A fourth album softened the approach but it did not ignite the charts. That was three years ago, but Eyeless in Gaza are back with their most interesting and commercially accessible record ever in Back from the Rains.
Here you will find swelteringly happy rock music, mood music instrumentals and a kind of modern folk music. The key to this album is the emotional content of the expression, delivered by one of the most distinctive voices I’ve ever heard in my life. Martyn Bates singing on the version of the old Irish tune She Moved thru the Fair alone makes the album a collector’s item. Cherry Red’s upmarket packaging and production make for a bargain at any price.
by Ned Raggett (allmusic.com)
The final Eyeless in Gaza release before the duo’s temporary split, Back From the Rains builds on the pop sense of Rust Red September excellently. Beginning with the brief a cappella piece ‘Between These Dreams’, Bates’ vocals treated with a bit of a hollow-room sound that creates some subtly effective drama, the duo shifts into the bright, almost straightforward glow of ‘Twilight’, a fine representation of the album as a whole. It’s a bit much to say that Back From the Rains is the pinnacle of the band’s aiming toward a neo-Duran Duran/Tears for Fears modern pop triumph, but there’s no question that it’s a long way from Photographs As Memories. Yet the irony is that little about the duo’s approach actually changed – art rather than commerce dominates, and for all that Bates almost lets his vocals verge into total histrionics at points, he still has that sweet, wistful quality in his voice that suggests gentle calm more than anything else. He and Becker, as always, make an excellent team, the latter surrounding the former’s vocal and guitar parts with detailed, energetic arrangements and overdubs. ‘Catch Me’ and the soul-touched ‘Welcome Now’ may have straight-up rhythms for once, but it’s still a meta-pop of the kind that could chart high but never does. Comparisons could be made to the Cocteau Twins at their most straightforward, a slightly less obscure John Foxx, but it’s all Eyeless in Gaza’s own particular vision. Even the simpler approaches, like the barely there production touches on the otherwise vocal-and-guitar combination of ‘Lie Still, Sleep Long’, work wonders. Add in a wonderful version of the folk traditional ‘She Moves Through the Fair’ that gives Bates another music-less chance to the shine and the result is a total winner. The CD version includes, in a slightly odd backtrack, the entirety of the New Risen EP.