Eyeless In Gaza
Drumming the Beating Heart
(BRED 36, July 30 1982, Lp)
Eyeless In Gaza music may not engender any conventional excitement – it’s bleak and austere, existential angst meets John Keats sort of thing – but Martyn Bates and Peter Becker weave their poetic, if simple, lyrics through a synthesizer landscape which is sometimes breathtakingly beautiful and never jarring; not for them the mundane pop twiddling of Visage or Human League. Pretentious may be a word which sometimes comes to mind, but the texture and effect of Drumming is such that it hardly matters. The kind of album to play on dark nights or very cloudy days. Get it for the winter.
God, I thought, not another LP from Eyeless, they must be at it day and night. I’ve never been over-impressed with the dynamic duo and avoided playing this for some time, but I must admit that through the haze of downbeat doodlings they are renowned for there were a lot of bits that made me look up from my Mills and Boon. I think this shows the signs of these chaps going on to steal the crown which OMD actually made, the electronic basis is there but they’ve managed to fuse it with some tasty toppings of Eastern influence.
EYELESS IN GAZA “Drumming the beating heart” (BRED36) is their 3rd release and one that defies any criticism because by now you should be well familiarised with the Gaza sound of Martyn Bates & Peter Becker as they dish up unbeatable menus of delicate pastries. One of the most beautiful moments occurs on ‘Dreaming at rain’, a breathtaking yet sublime instrumental. The 7 songs that occupy side 2 are of equal importance [?] […].
Blinded by the light
by Christine Buckley
THIS IS the sort of record you think you ought to like, or at least appreciate. There are a fair few bands that can be said of, but most of them fall short of the mark that mark being the “convincing” mark. For me, that’s quite high, maybe unfairly so, because usually I find that this type of “experimental” (awful word!), synth-structured, esoteric lyricized brand of communication lacks power. Nine times out of 10 it lacks energy, seems too static, over-structured … and most of all vacuous.
This is the 10th time though. Eyeless In Gaza have not got the glaring faults of their ilk. Their sound is stripped to the bare essentials. For the most part it shuns melody, rhythm and all other standard musical ingredients. The untogetherness is inspiring and attention keeping, a quality which can be attributed, as much as it can be, to the forever present pulsating bass line.
All this talk of the insistent, pulsating background could probably be expected from the title and certainty it does live up to the ‘claims’ it makes in that respect. The vocals are very good; they have the haunting qualities of the best of folk ballad singers and keep a good provoking atmosphere throughout.
Not party music, but definitely very good listening for more reflective moods.
[Published in two magazines]
A beguiling marriage of electronic wizardry and impassioned lyricism from the Nuneaton duo of Martyn Bates and Pete Becker, alias Eyeless In Gaza.
The end product lacks a little light and shade, leaning very heavily on a rather sombre and melancholy musical backdrop for choice cuts such as “Dreaming At Rain” and “Before you Go”. I would have welcomed a more positive, and uplifting approach, but no-one can deny that “Drumming the Beating Heart” has a great deal to recommend it.
It was a time when Eyeless explored the more obscure realms of modern music. They sold about three dozen albums in all. Now they’ve wised-up and channelled their undoubted talent into a more accessible brand of pop without sacrificing any artistic values.
The latest batch of music releases from Cherry Red Records mix the acoustic with the electric, the rich with the sparse, the abrasive with the jolly variety as the spice of life.
Let’s start with the initially sparse observations of Eyeless In Gaza, and their debut LP DRUMMING THE BEATING HEART. Two gentlemen, synthesizers and drum machines not the perfect act up for challenging the passionless pulse of modern muzak, you may think. Surprisingly, Martyn Bates and Peter Becker manage to construct a cocoon of sound that cushions some fully committed vocals.
Dreaming At Rain, Throw A Shadow and Transience Blues are particularly memorable. The Cure meet the Human League in a wind tunnel and write […].
by Johnny Waller
THERE WAS a time when I briefly flirted with the concept of Eyeless becoming the new Orchestral Manoeuvres, smoothing away their coarse crashings to chart calmer, more pleasing waters … but it was never a serious prospect.
Or maybe it’s too serious. The troubled, cutting edge to Martyn Bates’ twisted growl owes much more to a vocalist such as Kevin Coyne; traumatic churning outbursts of unashamed emotional anguish often incomprehensible in literal terms but unmistakable in passionate intent. Bates communicates.
If at times Eyeless seem wilfully obscurist or difficult (side one’s closer ‘Dreaming At Rain’, a discordant instrumental reflection of the title, can’t exactly be whistled in the bath) then that should be regarded more as a measure of their concern for content over form.
This is finally and mesmerically proved on side two, where the magnificent trilogy of ‘Pencil Sketch’, ‘At Arms Length’ and the pastoral ‘Lights of April’ attain such a lulling beauty that the listener becomes transported into a cocoon of floating, pastel moods as intricate and fragile as a snowflake. Be prepared to melt a little … .
But let’s not get too wet! (Too late! -Ed) After all, it’s just the new Eyeless album, still with faults, with pretensions, with clumsy meanderings, but most importantly with a thumping great heart that permeates every note they play.
And it’s ‘At Arms Length’ which displays this most effectively, most effusively and most effortlessly. It flows with a timeless grace and an aching tenderness, a yearning plea.
Martyn Bates isn’t so much a torch singer as a human blaze, a fiery inferno of compulsive, confusing, contradictory, passions. He’s much less obviously articulate than, say, Martin Fry, and certainly uses fewer words, but there’s no doubt in my mind who says more.
This won’t be the record to propel Eyeless out of obscurity. Their ‘Caught In Flux’ collection of last year was a more immediate, commercial prospect. But more crucially, it continues to map out their special terrain of love-lost wasteland with just a lonely trail to the heart.
Just compare the title of ‘Drumming The Beating Heart’ with that of ‘The Lexicon of Love’ and decide for yourself who has more to say … .
by John W. (Trouser Press, Jan 1983)
Drumming the Beating Heart could be the soundtrack to one of those “they’re not bad, they’re just kids” movies Britain used to churn out in the early ’60s. In this one, two lads are caught lurking in the local cathedral. Are they carving up the pews? Sucking coins out of the poor box? No, as the bobbies close in, Martyn Bates and Peter Becker are racing to finish up the last organ swell on their third LP. And they probably wouldn’t have been caught if they hadn’t turned up the guitar on side two.
With a couple of exceptions, the feel of this record is consistent: churchy organ, kitchen-utensil percussion and free-form lyrics. On the whole, the effect is quite: pleasing. The only distracting factor is that Bates’ vocal phrasing sounds a bit like: Joe Jackson’s no particular plus or minus.
While flowing in the direction of previous LP Caught In Flux, Drumming the Beating Heart offers a more coherent vision of loftiness. Eyeless in Gaza promotes the subtle good taste one would expect of a band named after Aldous Huxley’s paean to pacifism.
If the boys stop skipping out on choir practice and continue to hone their sound, they could well develop into something u[…]. Maybe they’ll even get their set of church[…].
Drumming the Beating Heart (L.P.)
This is the third L.P. from English duo Martyn Bates and Peter Becker: Eyeless in Gaza. Their sound, as we know it from earlier records and also the flexi-disc in Vinyl 12, hasn’t changed. Still “Drumming the Beating Heart” is a fine step forward, especially in regard to the equilibrium of the material on offer. Twelve numbers in which the unbridgeable gap between the “I” and “The other” stands central. Lyrics full of rain, light, air, shadow, elusive memories, melancholy and now and then a glimpse of hope. Martyn’s raw monotonous singing and the economical orchestration, of which the core is mostly whining organ themes or rattling rhythm-guitar, give the music on “Drumming the Beating Heart” a ritualistic, almost religious character. A long exorcism of the fear that is bound with inevitable loneliness.
I find Drumming the Beating Heart a lovely record, although the abolishment of alienation is doomed to failure at the outset:
“in all honesty/we/can never/touch completely/…/we realize/we are chasing/a face/in disguise.” […].
Thanks must go to Cherry Red records this month for getting me out of a tight spot. It really has been quite a depressing month for record releases (as I write), a strange phenomenon which seems to befall us at around about this time every year as everyone goes on holiday including musicians apparently. Few tours tends to mean few album releases until bands get stuck into their autumn live tours, building up to a December extravaganza where we’re sadly spoilt for choice!
Anyway, I had literally nothing I thought worth mentioning other than a collection of rather boring middle-of-the-road material (boring as in unadventurous and habitual, rather than unfit to listen to) until I received an excellent little collection of goodies from Cherry Red they who put me in touch with the Passage (along with Mr Peel).
Full marks this month must go to Messrs Bates and Becker, otherwise known as Eyeless In Gaza, for their very latest release (yes, even available in Britain) Drumming the Beating Heart (Cherry Red Bred 36). I recently missed the opportunity to go and see these guys live, and was surprisingly informed by a friend afterwards that I hadn’t missed much. Well, perhaps he was in a particularly unresponsive mood that night, or it may have been unfamiliarity with the material that caused his boredom (or Eyeless In Gaza on a distinctly ‘off’ night), but any reservations I may have had about the consistency of their other albums (they do seem to be remarkably prolific) soon vanished after playing this one a couple of times.
Perhaps it’s due to their material becoming slightly more accessible that I found myself enjoying this one so much and two or three tracks are delightfully recorded too. The album progresses from strength to strength, side two being particularly fine with ‘Throw a Shadow’, ‘Lights Of April’, and the embracing ‘Before You Go’, I’m impressed. And ten out of ten for the cover too!
by G.L. (Tone Deaf fanzine)
A bit late to review this one but recently as I’ve finally become an Eyeless In Gaza fan after a few listens to this album, which displays the wide range of talent within this duo, showing them capable of writing both catchy, beautiful songs as well as dreamy instrumentals. The music has a wonderful uncluttered feel about it, while the vocals are full of emotions very atmospheric. This is some of the prettiest music I’ve ever heard.
by Jim Shelley (Smash Hits, September 16-29 1982)
With a thin guitar sound, harsh synth/percussion and a wailing vocal style, the Nuneaton duo come over as a more harrowing version of OMD on this, their third Lp for Cherry Red. Side Two is consistently bracing, dramatic and evocative but, in general, their songs – brief, intense sketches of rather wallowing sentiment – become slightly wearing. Still, they’re interesting and quite ‘desperate’ but never very threatening, and this doesn’t break any new ground.
by Dave Hill (New Musical Express, July 31 1982)
There’s a couple of related reasons why this new record by two of the more stubbornly individual recording artists outflanks all that went before.
The first is that Martyn Bates and Peter Becker seem to have suddenly realised what an utter waste of effort it is to sit and die, martyred in a corner. Sniping from the margins is not automatically a tactic of heroic integrity, but is often the sign of abject negativity and artistic failure.
The second reason is that they’ve broken right out of that corner. Their value is upped a billion points with this release because, instead of skulking in a cul-de-sac, complaining that people were too stupid to connect the first time, they’ve shown that they’re determined to make people connect.
‘Drumming the Beating Heart’ is so much better than their previous sluggish experiments not because it’s more “commercial”, but because the endeavour required to redesign their form clarifies and strengthens it. The components of the rambling precursor ‘Caught In Flux’ (which never reached the run-off groove in my house) aren’t discarded or compromised. Sprawling swathes of synth, sparse “industrial” percussion and a yowling vocal technique still constitute the sound. But now they’re pressed into appropriate frameworks.
Side one’s first four tracks are bare, aching laments, frozen eloquently on the edge where misery meets melancholy. It’s a long way from the slough of morbidity where previously the duo could so easily be consigned. The effect is terse, traumatic even, but also tender and winningly forlorn. They grasp the same spooked desolation you find in that ancient brand of Folk, except the setting here is no green field, but more like an edgy vigil in the concrete as you wait for the late bus home.
By Eyeless standards, side two is a virtual romp. The impression is almost picaresque, the differing songs amounting to a flurry of unexpected sparks. ‘Two’ clatters along in splinters of near-funk; ‘Pencil Sketch’ is a sprightly skit constructed from abbreviated stabs of synth; there’s a couple more sweeps of their new corrugated soul, and at one point they’ve almost written an actual pop song!
Six months back, I witnessed Eyeless take what looked like sour satisfaction in emptying a London college hall. ‘Drumming the Beating Heart’ suggests they’ve slung that garbage outlook away. They’re taking real risks now. Eyeless, it seems, have discovered the gift of sight.
by Wilson Neate (allmusic.com)
Whereas previous Eyeless in Gaza material, especially the album Pale Hands I Loved So Well, was somewhat non-linear and improvisational, Drumming the Beating Heart emphasizes another side of the band’s identity. Martyn Bates and Peter Becker take a more focused approach on this album, although they are working within a familiar idiom – drafting melancholy, sometimes unsettling sketches with minimal percussion, introspective lyrics, emotionally charged vocals, and sparse, melodic keyboard and guitar patterns. Notwithstanding the atmospheric instrumental “Dreaming at Rain”, which continues in the rambling, experimental vein that was most pronounced on Pale Hands I Loved So Well, this material finds the Nuneaton duo fashioning their stock sonic components into more immediately accessible, conventional song structures, albeit at the avant end of the pop spectrum. This departure is evident on the single “Veil Like Calm” (which also marked the band’s first foray into music video), and the stripped-down, staccato guitar funk of “Two”. A salient characteristic of this album is its juxtaposition of the fragile and reflective alongside the jagged and fraught, sometimes in the context of the same track: On “Transience Blues”, for instance, Bates’ urgent, almost pained vocals and a shuddering rhythm are shadowed by haunting keyboards. Drumming the Beating Heart’s most compelling tracks are those that underscore the influence of traditional English folk forms on Eyeless in Gaza’s work. Although it’s rendered in a considerably pared-down manner, that influence manifests itself particularly on “Ill Wind Blows”, with its droning keyboard and bare, rattling percussion, and on the short, vocally intense “Picture the Day”. Listened to alongside the band’s earlier projects, Drumming the Beating Heart reflects Eyeless in Gaza’s growing maturity. The newfound cohesion and developing pop sensibility demonstrated here would be more fully realized on Rust Red September the following year.
bei Marianne Ebertowski
Dies ist Musik, um ganz still zu werden. Nicht ohne guten Grund haben sich Martyn Bates und Peter Becker alias Eyeless in Gaza für die Plattenhülle in einer Kapelle fotografieren lassen. Was auf “Drumming the beating heart” zu hören ist, hat die Intensität und Zerbrechlichkeit von Kirchenmusik. Die Synthesizer klingen wie Orgeln, die Melodien sind hymnenartig und Martyn Bates singt mit soviel Emotionalität, daß es einem kalt den Rücken herunterläuft. Seine impressionistisch-poetischen Texte zeugen von einer Realitätsrezeption, die geprägt ist durch Ängste, Unsicherheit, Einsamkeit und Sehnsüchten, die eigentlich tabu sind. (“We look softly as if to say something that we both require. Hands poised with grace. Trace of a smile, talking low, looking into you. How can I know what runs through you. It’s absurd and impossible. There is no way to tell. We stand lonely, almost as far apart as a pearl and its empty shell.”)
Die Art und Weise, worin Eyeless in Gaza im wahrsten Sinne des Wortes das klopfende Herz spielen und es sozusagen offen und verletzlich auf den Plattenspieler legen, macht “Drumming the beating heart” zu einer der ehrlichsten und unter die Haut gehendsten Platten, die jemals gemacht worden sind. Ob diese Herzschläge im Lärm der Zeit gehört werden, ist eine andere Frage.
Mit der Musik dieses englischen Duos geht es mir ähnlich wie mit der von den Furs. Als ich ‘DTBH’ zum erstenmal hörte, verschlug’s mir den Atem. Jetzt beim zweiten Hören ist eine Barriere da. Martyn Bates und Peter Becker schaffen mit sparsamen Mitteln in erster Linie sinistre Keyboards und atemloser Gesang, selten Gitarre, Bass oder Percussion eine Atmosphäre, daß man selbst bei blauern Himmel glaubt, der Regen trommele ans Fenster. Ich ordne, was ich da höre, irgendwo zwischen Faust, Joy Division und Robert Wyatt ein. Unmittelbare Ähnlichkeiten sind allerdings nicht festzustellen. Die Klangbilder von Eyeless In Gaza sind zu bizarr, um in irgendwelche Kategorien zu passen.
Japanese review 1
Japanese review 2
[See also CD review. -Ed.]