Eyeless In Gaza
Orange Ice & Wax Crayons
(A-Scale 033, October 30 2006, Cd)
(cat|sun (Monotype Records) cat9, October 14th 2012, Cd)
by Frans de Waard (Vital Weekly, January 2013)
Last week I was reading Stripped, the history of Depeche Mode. At some 600 pages a lengthy history of a band recording an album, touring an album, do some drugs and repeat that for thirty years. But the small bit that really surprised me is that Eyeless In Gaza was their support act in 1986. That struck me, as in 1986 I may have lost Eyeless In Gaza out of sight, but by 1986 Depeche Mode was already a big band, playing bigger places already. I never realized that the duo of Peter Becker and Martyn Bates were so big at one point. Back in 1981 when I first heard them they were, I thought, one of the more interesting bands on what I thought was one of the more interesting labels at that time, Cherry Red. A label that dared releasing both post punk and way more experimental stuff, like A Tent, Five or Six or Second Layer. Eyeless In Gaza was both at the same [time]. A bit experimental, but never shy of a good pop/folk song, using drum machines, keyboards, guitar and vocals.
By when I dived more deep into the world of cassettes (loving their split cassette with Lol Coxhill!), I didn’t keep up with them after Pale Hands I Loved So Well, the fourth album from 1982. They have played together all these years and an impressive discography at that. The only later work I heard was Song of the Beautiful Wanton (2000) since it was on Soleilmoon, to which I had some business ties back then. I understand that this particular title is from 1991, when the group was in hibernation, following their temporary split in 1987. It’s a compilation of sorts of older stuff, bits and pieces from all stages of their career and it’s exactly that quality which I used to like them for. From some gorgeous great pop songs to more experimental percussion and vocals, as in ‘Street Lamps n’ Snow’, the outside rain sounds of ‘P.S. for Michael’ but also the great pop moments of ‘Hours Grow’ and ‘What I Want to Know’, or when it blends together such as ‘Formerly at Midnight’, some proto techno music.
The balance here seems to be towards the more experimental stuff, but experimental in the hands of Gaza is where pop meets folk meets ambience meets drone, usually with keyboards and vocals. Experiments for the sake of creating some great weird pop music, and not for the sake of experiments itself. Just like was a common place in the early 80s. Albums like this make me realize I love this a lot, and what I so dearly miss out in a lot of the current “alternatively” (lots of salt needed) pop music scene, where everybody follows whatever is hip and have no sense of experimenting with form of a song. That makes me sad indeed. But maybe I get old and need to pull the plug on what I do and play Cherry Red records of those years and sulk all day? That would not seem right though, but I may play some more Eyeless In Gaza in the next few free moments this week.