Winter Sang

Eyeless In Gaza
Winter Sang
(A-Scale ASR057, November 14 2018, Cd/download)

Review 1

by Lee Henderson (Big Beautiful Noise, December 29, 2018)

With well over 30 years of creating their own unique music, after all this time, still no one comes close to sounding like them. Eyeless In Gaza have produced another amazingly beautiful, big feathery bed of songs. Instantly, with ‘Never Going Back’ (track 1), Pete Becker and Martyn Bates make the hair stand up on the back of your neck, with classic EIG sound. With the staggeringly supernatural structures, the one of a kind part breathy, part heartbreaking, and restful innocent spirit of Martyn’s vocals, the combination of Pete’s multi-instrumentation, along with even more numerous instruments by Bates, just somehow becomes a miraculous chemistry, not before heard by the humans of planet earth.

So many times EIG have been able to blend an odd mix of jangly, somewhat psychedelic, alternately haunting ballad, and even sporadically experimental and sometimes noisy compositions, that compliment one another. The duo have a stunning ability to sit each diverse song on the same platter, and have them all be woven together like a handmade blanket of attractive, oddly cut patches. The beautiful result is such a warm throw, that your great grandmother might have made with her gentle hands. Suave pieces from different eras, sometimes ancient, some mod, odd, and a few from no man’s land.

Expect the tearful ballads like ‘I Also Dwell’ (track 5), that could have come from their brilliant ground breaking Red Rust September album. But far from retro, EIG have a more full sound then ever, if you can believe it is only two artists making this rich and sometimes thick sound, with lots of reverb, sweetly placed layers, and the cool collection of instruments that both have clearly mastered. Bates and Becker show the world they still have every ounce of their creative thinking caps left. ‘Older Day’ (track 7) is one of the most gorgeous songs they have ever made, and that is saying a tremendous thing. Worth the price alone.

The dreamy deliciousness of Winter Sang stands tall among the stars. Certainly a best of 2018, and not to be missed by fans and the curious alike. ‘Amazed’ (track 9) is another beauty beyond belief. Ending the unforgettable recording is ‘Gentle’, yet another masterpiece to leave you gently hurt, bathed in angel wings. The lyrics are inside this beautifully made 6 panel digipak, with picture disc. EIG gives us 10 new tunes that are as great as anything they have ever done. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!


Review 2

by Jon Dale (Uncut #262, March 2019)

Eyeless In Gaza are DIY survivors, one of a handful of extant British groups who applied the lessons of punk to distinctly un-punk ends. For the duo of Martyn Bates and Peter Becker, this means churchy, spectral folk songs, sometimes with the weightless ambience of the best ECM productions, other times as earthen, yet oracular as the deepest Bristish traditional music. Winter Sang is one of their finest yet, Bates’ quavering voice arcing across waterlogged, dark-hued songs like ‘And I Dreamt’. That song is the album’s centrepiece, its expansive melody equal parts Nico’s Marble Index and Arthur Russell.


Review 3

by Andrew Young (The Terrascope, December 2018)

Twenty albums and more under their collective belt the duo of Peter Becker and Martyn Bates are back Eyeless In Gaza are back with a new album, the title of Winter perhaps reflecting the icy cold indifference to the band over the last 38 years since their first recordings. Martyn Bates: vocals, keyboards, acoustic and electric guitar, clarinet, bass whistle, soprano sax mouth harp and percussion and Peter Becker: bass guitar, drums, acoustic and electric guitar, wasp synth, pixiephone, melodic, piano, tapes, percussion, drum machines and echo-boxes, are still churning out great albums.

Electro acoustic album opener ‘Never Going Back’ provides a good entry into their sound, it’s quite dense with plenty going on, electric guitars ring out, arcing bass, sax, mouth harp, busy percussion and a concise chanted lyric. ‘And I Don’t Belong’ follows this, it’s a classic outsider song with a defeatist attitude, guitars churn and chime around Martyn’s lyrics. ‘Locked-In’ up next, is a great song, echoing perhaps Talk Talk and achieving a feel similar to classic period Kate Bush. The spirit of Ennio Morricone is brought to life in ‘Torn Bridge’; this is mainly due to the lonesome wailing harmonica, it’s also an instrumental, breaking up the album nicely. ‘I Also Dwell’ slows things down a little with a twilight ambient drifter of a song, full of verdant, poetic lyrics.

‘Wide Open’ the lyrics here speak of sun viewed through rain, of day into night, it drips with a gothic noir, blasted and shot through. ‘Older Day’ is perhaps my favourite on the album, guitars peel away in a gauzy haze, plenty of keyboards being sprinkled all over it, percussion is light, mainly shaker, it is another outsider song, an icy blast of isolation. ‘And I Dreamt’ is the longest song on the album, it stretches out their sound and moves along at a steady pace, again some lovely poetry from Martyn, with Peter’s percussion and bass framing his words to great effect, a touch of melodica and whistles add layers, it’s dreamy and slightly otherworldly in feel, all held together with some great textural keyboard sounds. ‘Amazed’ is more like a song from one of Martyn’s recent solo albums, a gentle meditative song of wonder. The record ends with ‘Gentle’ a song of mind and body, of conflicts and dilemmas, minimal music throughout providing just the right amount of tension and release. A healing balm for these troubled times, providing a fine end to an excellent album.


Review 4

by Denis Boyer (Feardrop, 2018)

Formé il y a presque quarante ans, l’univers d’Eyeless In Gaza a très vite trouvé sa stabilité, sa gravité, son timbre. Le duo de Martyn Bates et Peter Becker, parfois rejoint par Elisabeth S., a profité de l’énergie novatrice post-punk pour réactualiser un éternel folk, propulsé par des emprunts à la pop et les éclats cristallins d’une cold wave naissante que le groupe a contribué à définir. Bien sûr, les albums connaissent différents tempéraments et il existe des extrémités ; entre le minimalisme de Drumming The Beating Heart et les constructions très envolées de Back From The Rains, il semble s’être creusé un écart de saisons. Pourtant, l’identité est perceptible. Cela tient sans doute à la fraîcheur jamais démentie de la voix de Martyn Bates, comme à la palette de nombreux instruments dont les plus modestes contribuent à toujours placer Eyeless In Gaza au plus près d’une source fredonnante. Car aussi aventureux que soient certains albums, ils ne se détachent jamais de l’univers de la chanson. Une chanson du soir, une chanson des landes, une chanson du soleil, une chanson des éléments en fait, toujours chargée de la part d’étrangeté qu’une telle proximité avec l’origine entretient.

C’est pourquoi chaque album d’Eyeless In Gaza peut être entendu comme la découverte d’un nouveau panorama dans une géographie générale familière. À la façon de Mania Sour, l’avant-dernier album (alors que le suivant, Sun Blues travaillait plus dans le clair obscur du crépuscule), ce nouveau disque Winter Sang parvient à de tels équilibres des forces. La réverbération des cordes, dès l’ouverture de l’album, avertit de ce compromis entre l’intimité et l’espace ouvert. Les compositions attestent la formule : amples (bien plus amples que par exemple celles de Rust Red September, du déjà cité Drumming The Beating Heart ou, plus proche de nous, de Song Of The Beautiful Wanton), amples et ainsi plus éclairées. Les refrains ne surclassent en rien les couplets en matière de mélodie et la plus belle part est faite à cette dernière. Un entrain solaire dirons-nous, puisque l’album précédent l’avait consacré. Seulement c’est un soleil hivernal, au-dessus d’une fraîcheur persistante et d’une brume disparue depuis peu. La vigueur de la respiration par ce temps, la marche sous le soleil d’hiver, peuvent assurément lever de tels chants. La chanson Locked-In concentre peut-être cette balance des énergies, absolument rutilante de ses attaques de basse et de la phrase, osons le mot, pop, du même instrument. Bien sûr les brouillards sont aussi présents, et certaines poches s’emparent de la brillance des instruments pour l’effilocher en vapeur d’harmoniques cadencés par de lointaines percussions mécaniques. L’harmonica peut y éclore et peu à peu échafauder le bâti mélodique. De tels moments semblent convoquer le fantôme de Nick Drake sous un soleil rasant le paysage encore givré, autant que le souvenir des Murder Ballads que Martyn Bates réalisa à la fin des années 90 en compagnie de Mick Harris. Un morceau entier, Older Day, est couvert de cette ombre, comme l’ubac de la vallée. Il présente sa face au nord, alors que Locked-In l’exposait au sud. Mais c’est bien le même relief. C’est bien le même folk des mortes saisons.

Aussi bien c’est avec de tels titres : « Le blues solaire », « L’Hiver chanta », que l’on saisit l’esprit de la contrée Eyeless In Gaza : un entrain mélancolique, une aurore boréale, une fraîcheur inondée de soleil.