Eyeless In Gaza
Streets I Ran
(A-Scale 016, 1995, Cd-Ep)
Mystery Seas (Letters Written #2) & Eyeless In Gaza – Streets I Ran (A-Scale 018 Cd & 016 Cd)
by Mike Barnes (The Wire, Summer/Autumn 1995)
Since his duo Eyeless In Gaza (with Pete Becker) emerged in the early 80s, Martyn Bates has been one of the most individual and idiosyncratic of English vocalists. On EIG’s occasional recordings, the potent blend of Bates’ barely controlled vocal exorcisms and settings of alluring rawness – plus a crop of good tunes – threw shapes too strange for most listeners. After 1987, Bates disappeared for a while before Eyeless In Gaza re-emerged in 1993. Recent work, including the brilliant Murder Ballads (Drift) (with Lull’s Mick Harris) foregrounded the folk strands that have resonated throughout his work.
Folk music is a term that carries centuries of dead wood, but these tales and unearthed memories set amongst sensual and harsh environments (‘Calm of Dark’, ‘On the Beach at Fontana’, ‘Sky After All’) continue his oblique take on the genre. Bates’s personal texts are set to a shifting backdrop of tremulous reedy organ, melodeon and sonorous piano – some are virtually a cappella.
Mystery Seas is a mixture of new songs and others that date back to the time of his first solo recording in 1982. It’s a seamless, coherent record though, and the sense of invention and inspiration make it seem absurd that he’s been on the periphery for so long.
Streets I Ran, a mini-album, takes one track from last year’s Saw You in Reminding Pictures Cd and pitches it into a batch of new improvisations. Bates’s voice – often disembodied and wordless – skirts around the duo’s spectral, rhythmic melange of percussion, keyboards and tape manipulation. They still sound self-possessed and quite unique.
by DD (MFTEQ 12, August/September 1995)
A mini-album which is related to their ‘Saw You in Reminding Pictures’ set. This time vocals play a full role and Bates’ voice rides and soars all over the backing of rhythmless acoustics. Though nothing should be taken away from Becker’s compositions [?]. Excellent as always.