Eyeless In Gaza
Rust Red September
(Cd MRED 111, 1994 (reissued June 10 1996), Cd)
by Jonathan Leonard (Leonardslair.co.uk, 2001)
Named after an Aldous Huxley novel, Eyeless In Gaza were the enigmatic duo of Peter Becker and Martyn Bates. Never really having a strong foothold in any particular style of music, they veered between folk, spoken verse, OMD-like pop and odd improvised instrumentals. Rust Red September from 1983 followed two largely instrumental albums and chronicles their sound at its most focused and coherent. On a recording of changing emotions, ‘Changing Stations’ and ‘New Risen’ are full of hope but weave between the anger of the excellent ‘Pearl and Pale’ and ‘September Hills’ marked by the angular guitar shapes and Bates’ strained but passionate vocals. Further listening finds them in equally good form on the more considered, drawn out laments of ‘Corner of Dusk’ and ‘Only Whispers’. Certainly the eleven tracks on the original album demonstrate their original talent superbly, although it’s questionable whether the poetry and tuneless meandering that concludes this re-release adds anything worthy of note. Eyeless In Gaza remain a curiously attractive proposition; their uniqueness and Englishness making a record like Rust Red September very treasurable indeed.
by Ned Raggett (allmusic.com)
Officially the band’s fifth full vinyl release, Rust Red September finds the group further moving away from the brusquer hooks of its earliest days to a calmer reflectiveness. If anything, the duo also achieved a light, airy pop feeling with this album, slotting it alongside more successful sounds from the U.K. in the mid-’80s without actually breaking through or, on a happier thought, pandering to achieve such success. This newer approach comes courtesy of Bates’ singing voice, here sweetly overdubbed at many points with butter-melting-in-mouth effect – indeed, such is the purity he reaches here it almost sounds like he should be in a Scandinavian jangle pop act! “New Risen”, the single from the album, balances both a catchy melody and a curious, unexpected keyboard/rhythm arrangement – the closest parallel might be to the similarly not-quite-straightforward work of the Associates, if on a generally calmer level. The elegant arrangements he and Becker create truly, completely shimmer with a strange, sparkling power, light without ever sounding either airily new age or anything remote easy listening. Consider Bates’ simple but effective electric guitar work on “Pearl and Pale”, which had to have been an influence on any number of later acts on the Projekt record label, heartbreaking chimes, and atmospherics while avoiding simply turning on the effects pedals. Becker’s abilities with rhythm work serve the duo quite well – what initially seems like an intriguing-enough off-time drum pattern on “Leaves Are Dancing” takes a further subtle turn with the introduction of another percussion line on the chorus, steering away from 4/4 into differing realms. His many other understated touches throughout – the accordion wails on “No Perfect Stranger”, the beautiful synth backing on “Bright Play of Eyes” – help further the beauty of this striking album. The CD reissue of Rust Red September contains some excellent bonuses for the appreciative fan. Three, “To Steven”, “Sun-Like-Gold”, and “To Elizabeth S.”, originally from the Myths. Instructions. I compilation on Sub Rosa, are rougher, murkier instrumentals with an appropriately shady appeal. The remaining three are the B-sides from the Sun Bursts In EP that followed the album, resulting in a near comprehensive picture of the band’s work at that time.