Eyeless In Gaza
Song of the Beautiful Wanton
(SOL 94, March 9 2000, Cd)

Review 1

by Gil Gershman (Muze)

After a reluctant reshaping for the sake of ’80s-pop palatability, and a subsequent hiatus of several years, Martyn Bates and Peter Becker resurrected the Eyeless In Gaza name in the mid-’90s. Latter-day EIG retained the duo’s signature blend of impassioned improvisation and emotive pop, while witnessing the project’s graceful maturation and an interest in English folk traditions.

Consisting of equal parts pop, folk, experimentation, and musical elements otherwise non-ascribable, 1999’s wonderful Song of Beautiful Wanton is a satisfying culmination of EIG’s singular trajectory. Bates and Becker have amassed an impressive instrumental arsenal, with which they detail the idyllic settings framing Bates’ now-mellowed – and often multi-tracked – voice. The exotically textured ‘Mysterious Traffic’ and ‘One Light Then’ offer immediate surprises in deftly incorporated trip-hop electronics and dub-like tape effects, while the sumptuously cinematic ‘Old and Cold and Full of Ghosts’ spills sound effects into ‘The Lovely Wanton.’ Technology proves only a passing fancy, however. The Beautiful Wanton proceeds as a scintillating set of pastoral paeans (‘Lullay My Liking,’ ‘Staring,’ ‘Apple’), mythical musings (‘The Silkie,’ ‘Lord Gregory’), and stinging, self-reflective songwriting (‘Staring,’ fiery ‘Less Sky’) delivered with EIG’s customarily mead-tongued yet lyrically barbed facility. A superb show all around, complemented by gorgeous photographic presentation.

Review 2

by Bill Cohen (Alternative Press)

Bizzare psychedelic folk played with ingenuity and gusto.

Eyeless In Gaza have been mining their unique brand of loy, pastoral psych for 20 years, but vocalist Martyn Bates still knows how to both charm and disturb. Bates’ flair for drama remains intact on Song of the Beautiful Wanton, which wallows in the ethereal murk of This Mortal Coil and Tim Buckley, but avoids the pitfalls of pandering to the black-eyeliner-and-coffee crowd.

Bates generally succeeds as a timeless psychedelic troubadour, but other moments on this CD veer toward pretentious gothic drivel that 4AD wouldn’t touch. However, EIG’s track record is impeccable and, except for Current 93, nobody plays bizarre psychedelic folk with such ingenuity and gusto. Song of Beautiful Wanton is an acquired taste, but those with a predilection toward the overdramatic will find much to love here.

Review 3

by Liz Ohanesian

Ethereal driven, psyche folk: Ethereal is one of those words that is used repeatedly in the music press, part of a string of buzzwords that, inevitably, become trite or meaningless. While ethereal has commonly been associated with female vocals floating through romantic melodies, Eyeless In Gaza manage to capture the Webster’s definition of the term without the angelic soprano or any sort of Coctaeu Twins ambitions. On their first full-length release in five years, Eyeless In Gaza continues to experiment with the ambient soundscapes and psyche folk tendencies that have marked their sound over the course of two decades. Vocalist Martyn Bates plays the role of the troubadour with very airy vocals and lyrics that conjure the spirits of the bards of yore. Complimenting Bates’ vocals is a mix of delicate, acoustic guitar work and exquisite, electronic textures (created with partner Pete Becker). On Song of the Beautiful Wanton, Eyeless In Gaza lure listeners into an alternate reality that revels in antique beauty while remaining steeped in modern technology.