Ambivalent Scale offers the following biography on Martyn Bates – entitled:
Martyn Bates: An Often Errant, Incomplete & Wayward Chronology of Solo Songs & Musics
- contribution to In the Cities of Their Eyes compilation benefit Cd
- work continues on Ill Star (projected release date: late summer 2016). (Eyeless In Gaza)
- writing for planned next solo album release, October/Nov release date.
- release of Fireworks & Jewels/The Colour of Amber
- release of triple cd archival retrospective Mythic Language. (Eyeless In Gaza)
- rare live performance in Berlin. (Eyeless In Gaza)
- release of Arriving Fire
- release of Mania Sour (Eyeless In Gaza)
- rare solo concert, in Athens.
- recording and mixing Arriving Fire – with the album benefiting from having a broader range of ‘atmos colourings & embellishment’ – developed with much valued musical contributions from producer Alan Trench
- release of several independently created videos featuring Martyn’s music – those of particular note were To A Child, Dancing In The Wind, and also a specially commissioned film of Unsung: The Sun Knows by Paladino & Karini of the song that many felt to be the core song of the Unsung album.
- release of Unsung,– Martyn Bates’ first full solo album release since 1995, and a departure in more ways than one – being virtually completely solo, denuded acoustic music save for a handful of timely contributions from Elizabeth S.
- New Twelve Thousand Days recording sessions. (Two pieces: ‘Pyre’ and ‘Killing Trees’ are available to hear via the Bates/Becker Facebook page.)
- recording with Eyeless In Gaza.
- ‘solo’ songwriting continues throughout the year …
- working on Eyeless In Gaza’ Mythic Language box set with Peter Becker – a multi cd set which also features a Martyn Bates solo album entitled Morningsinging – this huge undertaking being a ‘lost’ retrospective of previously un-issued archive material ranging from live tapes, ‘lost’ archive studio recordings, demos, and radio sessions for the BBC, stations in San Francisco, Germany, Belgium, Holland. The set also features two books by Martyn Bates – November: Inky Blue Sky – a 100 page book of “lyric fragment/xerox experiments, set up to mix word and image” – and a second book entitled Notes on Mythic Language (a book about writing).
- rare live concert outing – namely, a headlining slot at a Sub Rosa artistes evening concert in London.
- re-issue of hitherto hard-to find material was finally made more generally available in 2009, with Martyn Bates’ three 1988-1990 solo albums finally re-released (in mp3 format only) – Cherry Red records making available three long unavailable solo albums from the period during Eyeless In Gaza’s temporary hiatus (1988-1991). Love Smashed on a Rock (Oct 1988), Letters to a Scattered Family (February 1990) and Stars Come Trembling (Oct 1990) all now being available for download via iTunes etc.
- release of A Map of the Stars in Summer and lyrics book, on the Brussels based Moments imprint – collecting together mostly previously unpublished Martyn Bates & Eyeless In Gaza lyrics (120 pages). The book was issued with a Cd comprising 5 new songs by Martyn Bates and also one new song by Eyeless In Gaza.
- re-issue/remaster of the Cherry Red released Eyeless In Gaza albums, plus Martyn Bates’ first solo albums – Letters Written & The Return of the Quiet.
- August 2008 Martyn Bates collected a prestigious Mojo Award on behalf of Eyeless In Gaza, for their contribution to the Pillows & Prayers releases – also specially recording a song for a Leonard Cohen homage album for the magazine.
- July 2008 – in collaboration with Nick Grey Bates contributed melodies and vocals to a piece entitled ‘Couvre-Feu’, for the new album by Nick Grey & the Random Orchestra entitled Spin Vows Under Arch – released on Beta-Lactam Ring Records (collaboration with Michael Gira / Gerard Malanga / Julian Cope etc).
- Bates’ very first ‘public’ musics release – Dissonance – was reissued in 2007 on Cd & Lp. Beta-Lactam Ring Records issued three editions of Martyn Bates (Migraine Inducers Dissonance/Antagonistic Music) first ‘mythical’ Dissonance release – this previously tape-only release having not been available since early 1981, and is variously described as being a “noisy tour de force, and scream of frustration” howled out over the top of Bates’ earlier adventures in music – which helped clear the vision for what was to come. A glimpse of this evolution could be glanced in the even more rare ‘Americas version’ of Dissonance, later released in the US, one could catch glimpses of musical light seeping in here and there through cracks in the wall of noise, giving hints of the early Eyeless sound. There were other musicians cast in a similar situation at the time as this work by Martyn Bates – like Throbbing Gristle, DDAA, David Jackman, Clock DVA – who gave expression to their own frustrations in similar fashions – but Dissonance is very distinctly different in being a more personal and determinedly idiosyncratic reflection of its author as opposed to being definitively part of a broader contemporary movement.
- release of Songs of Transformation Cd – Bates’s collaboration album with Max Eastley. Recorded back in 1997, Virgin Records UK originally planned to release the album, but since Kevin Martin (Godflesh etc) left the company – (Kevin was the guy who was then responsible for A&R at Virgin, and who had been handling the project) – it was shelved until it’s eventual release on Musica Maxima Magnetica.
- writing material for A Map of the Stars in Summer album. Extensive editing/re-writing undertaken for the accompanying book – Bates’ third book of ‘lyrics and other writings’.
- publication of a comprehensive overview article on Eyeless In Gaza & Martyn Bates in the April, 2007 issue of The Wire – offering presenting a pertinent insight into aspects of Martyn Bates’ solo works in particular. Eyeless In Gaza – Patterns under the plough.
- release of Plague of Years compilation by Eyeless In Gaza, on the Sub Rosa label.
- release of Your Jewled Footsteps by Martyn Bates (on Sub Rosa). These compilations uniquely covered the whole of Eyeless in Gaza/Martyn Bates’ careers, with tracks licensed across several record labels. Your Jewled Footsteps afforded a long-overlooked first opportunity of an overview compilation of Martyn Bates’ solo oeuvre.
- release of Twelve Thousand Days’ third album – From the Walled Garden – by Shining Day.
- rare live concert, playing material from From the Walled Garden, Martyn Bates (together with Elizabeth S.) performed at a concert in Geneva in September of 2006, along with Larsen and Baby Dee
- release of To a Child Dancing in the Wind, Bates’ collaboration with German electronic duo Troum, on Transgredient Records. The album comprised works by the Irish poet W. B. Yeats, with Bates singing and playing occasional harmonica against a backdrop of ‘stark grandeur’.
- start of A-Scale’s association with US wyrd-folk originators – the Dark Holler group of labels – with Dark Holler’s Hand/Eye imprint licensing Martyn Bates’ Imagination Feels Like Poison Cd/book package as well as several other Eyeless In Gaza titles.
- issue of Bates’ Leitmotif mini album, as part of Dark Holler’s ‘folklore of the moon’ series. (Bates shares the ‘June Moon’ slot with a parallel release by Kawabata Makoto of legendary Japanese band Acid Mothers Temple). Other contributors included Current 93, Tim Renner, and In Gowan Ring.
- film soundtrack, composing the score for The Resurrection Apprentice, a short directed by filmmaker Dan McQuaid – colleague/collaborator of/with Larry Fassenden/Jim Jarmusch. The work was realised in tandem with Pete Becker – who recorded and engineered the work in his customary inimitable style.
- release of the Twelve Thousand Days mini-album At the Landgate in July 2005, via the Polish label Shining Day, serving as a ‘taster’ for the third Twelve Thousand Days album – From the Walled Garden – the recording and mixing sessions for the album having also been completed by July 2005.
- re-release of the Mystery Seas album by the Swiss independent label Shayo Records , with corresponding solo Martyn Bates concerts (performing with In Gowan Ring) in Paris and Bruxelles.
- a tour Cd-Ep was made available, featuring two new works by each of Martyn Bates and In Gowan Ring.
- recording sessions for a Martyn Bates “new album of songs” – with the input of Peter Becker. Intended as being a primarily keyboard based new album, entitled Endless Trees the album was slated “to be something of a special project”. As Bates stated at the time: “my aim is to create an album of stillness and silence … I want to try to re-create a cathedral-like sense of calm and focus … via songs which are both melodic and meditative at one and the same time – putting across the placidity and sense of place that can be accessed at both the centre of a solitary & tall forest and in a tall & teeming city.”
- Seven Voyages project – comprising a loose conglomeration of musicians formed expressly to perform a live music score (composed by Alan Trench) initially to Benjamin Christiansen’s silent film of 1922 – Häxan. The film has been hailed as an “hallucinogenic masterpiece” – influencing some of the conceptions at work behind Bu˝uel & Dali’s L’Age d’Or.
- Seven Voyages debut took place with a showing of Häxan at the Boston International Festival July 1st 2005.
- recording To a Child Dancing in the Wind – a collaboration album with ambient/electronica wizards Troum, a ‘.meditation’ on the works of W.B. Yeats.
- rare live appearance in the form of Twelve Thousand Days debut gig at the Small World mixed media festival in Lincoln.
- Eyeless In Gaza made a return ‘of sorts’ live appearance late 2004 at a ‘private party’ gig in the Isle of Wight – a quiet celebration, and a purposely low-key return to the public stage. Other, more ‘public’ performances are promised, with the proviso, as Bates says that “each concert HAS to be something of a special occasion or circumstance – beyond our music – in order to validate appearances.” The watchwords at that time, it seems, were – “Wait & See”.
- Twelve Thousand Days begin recording From the Walled Garden. Martyn has this to say about the ‘protracted release-time/gestation period’ of certain works – e.g. Songs of Transformation, From the Walled Garden: “I’m a great believer that there is such a thing as ‘the right time’ for a particular release. This often has more to do with strictly personal standards than the exigencies of a fickle market.”
- Hand/Eye release: ‘Seven Yellow Gypsies’ on a 2xCd sampler release that also features a fine cross-section/plenitude of wyrd-folk, including Stone Breath, In Gowan Ring, etc. etc.
- release of mini-album Dance of Hours,on the Texas independent NDN Records – written and recorded this year at A-Scale, and considered by some to be a ‘third volume’ of the Letters Written series.
- reissue of the Just After Sunset, album by Martyn Bates & Anne Clark – settings of Rainer Maria Rilke. The re-release adds extra tracks: live footage of Martyn and Anne performing some of this music at the Strange Noise Festival, in Germany 1997 – a new lease of life for this quietly appreciated, Europe only release.
- release of The Devil in the Grain,a second Twelve Thousand Days album, which was also written and recorded earlier during the year. Released by Germany based Iceflower/Trisol labels outfit.
- a rare live ‘solo’ outing (albeit, with Elizabeth S.) – performing as part of the Terrastock IV festival, Seattle.
- ( … essentially however, 2000 was the first of Bates’ sporadic “years of reflection” and, to quote Bates again “ … it was a year of search and redefinition” – which provided an opportunity to “undergo a period of personal research”.)
- 2nd book of lyrics by Martyn Bates published by Stride Books – Plague of Years.
- Murder Ballads trilogy released – by M. J. Harris & Martyn Bates, as a 3-Cd box set by the Chicago based Invisible label.
- birth of a new partnership with Orchis’ Alan Trench – sometime collaborator with Nurse With Wound and Coil. Naming themselves Twelve Thousand Days.
- release of first Twelve Thousand Days album, In the Garden of Wild Stars.
- solo concert – an acoustic performance on June 15th in the Mission District in San Francisco at The Make-Out Room.
- release/recording of Just After Sunset – with Anne Clark, at Thein Studios in Hamburg.
- re-released of Imagination Feels Like Poison album. Initially released to complement the book of the same name, this album was felt by Bates to stands alone in its own right, worthy of a quite separate release. Comprising new interpretations of songs extant 1982-1995 hitherto unheard, the album is primarily a collection of songs (occasionally threaded through with fleeting “illustrative atmospheric” sketches); a music brightly bittersweet, conjuring up ghostly and vivid invocations of folk/psych. Voice and, perhaps surprisingly, banjo (then an unusual choice for Martyn Bates), are the principal instruments that carry this music, a skeletal, simplistic music, deftly coloured and fleshed out by inventive use of autoharp, percussion, whistles and pump organ. Constituting totally solo recordings (co-produced and engineered by Eyeless In Gaza’s Peter Becker), this collection bears the distinct air of the highly personal/autobiographical, with dedications and references to the author’s family.
- written contribution to a book comprising a collection of tributes and epitaphs entitled My Kind of Angel: In Memoriam W.S. Burroughs. Bates’ piece of “fleeting impressions” was written out of the “sole desire to acknowledge the ambiguity of this most dangerous and saintly of souls – this warning bearer & ecstatic singer & dancer in words.”
- release of Incest Songs, the third volume of the Murder Ballads recordings by M. J. Harris & Martyn Bates.
- recording of Songs of Transformation, in collaboration with Max Eastley, at A-Scale studios. “An exciting time, creatively. Max is a strange and spellbound creature with an eye trained to the unusual – and an ear for the unheard.” Eastley and Bates also strove to pitch Eastley’s development/visualization/film-script/play The Song Bone for TV or film production – an idea inspired by Songs of Transformation, – but had little success. Bates is of the strong opinion that “every dog had his day – this rich vein of music will be appreciated fully someday, when the time is right … .”
- Songs of Transformation was eventually released by Musica Maxima Magnetica early in 2006 – with a track (‘The Death of Polly’) featured on the Virgin release Crooning on Venus. Tracks from Songs of Transformation received quite a bit of airplay on BBC Radio 6 for several years following this release – the album also collecting insightful reviews in the national press from noteworthy writers such as David Toop.
- live concerts performed with M.J. Harris, presenting items from the canon of Murder Ballads, in Berlin and Paris.
- developing Just After Sunset. – rehearsing/demoing the material at A-Scale, recorded and engineered by Peter Becker
- publication of Imagination Feels Like Poison: Selected Solo Lyrics 1982-1995, by Stride books. The book also came with an eponymous companion Cd release of new recordings made at A-Scale that year.
- release of Passages – the second cd volume of Murder Ballads by M. J. Harris & Martyn Bates.
- Chamber Music Vol. 2 by Martyn Bates released in November 1995 on Sub Rosa – completing these recordings of the James Joyce’s full song-cycle.
- release of Mystery Seas (Letters Written #2) Cd, which saw Bates further exploring seeds of ideas contained within his first solo work of some thirteen years prior, Letters Written. Comprising songs composed during that period (circa 1982) together with brand new songs in the idiom, this new collection of highly personal “letters” – organ-based songs and performances – is ’. haunted, richly melodic and lyrical … most emphatically songs, veering away from the more “experimental” areas that Martyn Bates was exploring at that time. Recorded at Ambivalent Scale.
- release of the first volume of Bates’ settings of James Joyce’s poems Chamber Music, Vol. 1 on Sub Rosa. Born simply out of love of Joyce’s work, Bates’ one aim in setting tunes to the text was: “to bring out in notes and music all the musicality that was already written there on the printed page … ” Bates envisioned the pieces as being “created about and around Celtic/English folk idioms … in a stark setting, almost a kind of essence of simplicity, like the very best folk tunes.” Virtually an a cappella work for solo voice, this Cd release was at the time the first complete cycle of song settings of Chamber Music’s entire canon of thirty-six poems since it was written in 1902.
- Eyeless In Gaza “re-union” album released – Fabulous Library Cd. Initially starting life as a Pete Becker solo work (with Elizabeth S.), an invitation for Bates to contribute saw the album take on a hitherto unexplored aspect of Eyeless. With fresh impetus and enthusiasms for exploration and experimentation re-located, a permanent re-union was decided upon.
- Meanwhile, Martyn Bates continued to carve out a parallel career in a solo capacity, recording with Scorn/Painkiller/ex-Napalm Death iconoclast M.J. Harris .
- Murder Ballads (Drift) released on the Italian Musica Maxima Magnetica label – essentially being a marriage of “isolationist” ambience with the “murder ballad” form. Four long, desolate and beautiful pieces that stretch the boundaries of definition for “isolationist” musics. A second volume ‘Passages’ followed in 1996, with a third volume ‘Incest Songs’ released in June 1998, completing the work. The trilogy was released as a 3-Cd box set by the Chicago based Invisible label, in July 2000.
- recording/playing/writing for Anne Clark’s The Law is an Anagram of Wealth album (going on to write and record on Clark’s album To Love and Be Loved etc., and then on to perform as part of a 7 piece band with Anne all over Europe + concerts in the States).
1987 – 1991
- citing a need to explore fresh territories and other musical configurations/situations, Martyn Bates and Peter Becker suspended Eyeless In Gaza activities in February 1987, leaving behind an eclectic legacy and influential body of work.
- post-Eyeless, Peter Becker did some recording and playing with In Embrace, while Martyn Bates also quickly got to work – contributions to the soundtracks of Derek Jarman’s The Garden and The Last of England rapidly following. Along came also a trilogy of solo albums (Love Smashed on a Rock/Letters to a Scattered Family/Stars Come Trembling) that saw Bates armed with a 12-string acoustic guitar investigating traditional troubadour stylings whilst moving further and further from that particular context with each successive release.
- collaborations with This Mortal Coil’s Deirdre Rutkowski (recordings still unissued), troubled flirtations with bands Cry Acetylene Angel and Hungry i followed rapidly (possibly, in some respects Bates is too much of a control freak, stating: “if I work with more than one person at a time in any given creative scenario, then something about what I do becomes invisible”).
1980 – 1987
- And so, back to ‘a beginning’ and point of entrance for all this music and other activities.
- In 1980, after releasing experimental/industrial tapes of Antagonistic Music/Dissonance (as Migraine Inducers), Martyn Bates formed Eyeless In Gaza with Peter Becker in January of that year. Exploring musical territories that veered from filmic ambience/atmos to rock, pop, industrial funk, avant-folk styles, the duo steered themselves hungrily and rapidly through several albums, independent hits and Europe-wide tours that culminated in the reflective swan songs of Rust Red September and Back from the Rains.
Other older comments/announcements
About Martyn Bates song settings of James Joyce’s poems Chamber Music A-Scale writes this:
1994 sees the release of Martyn Bates settings of James Joyce’s poems Chamber Music, Vol. 1 on Sub Rosa. Born simply out of love of Joyce’s work, Bates one aim in setting tunes to the text was “to bring out in notes and music all the musicality that was already written there on the printed page … .” Inspired by Shakespeare’s sonnets and the airs of John Dowland, Joyce’s richly musical texts lent themselves readily to the mellifluous style of Bates song writing … with Bates envisioning the pieces as being “created about and around Celtic/English folk idioms … in a stark setting, almost a kind of essence of simplicity, like the very best folk tunes.” Virtually an a cappella work for solo voice, and air utilised, allowing Joyce’s exceptionally beautiful poems to truly breath.
Written whilst a young man in his early twenties,Chamber Music was Joyce’s first published work and is essentially the story of “first love” passing from illumination to disillusionment – it’s a much neglected and maligned work, often over-shadowed by the colossal heights that Joyce’s later works achieved. These later works (Portrait, Dubliners, Ulysses, Finnegans Wake) are reverently treated as high art by scholars, a feast for arduous intellectual wrangling and dissection. Often coldly cerebral, this misguided approach must surely contradict the true spirit of Joyce, whose actual work is often ribald, lusty, deeply compassionate and humane – hence Bates use of warm, loosely “folk” idioms in his settings of Joyce’s texts, providing a musical context that facilitate Joyce’s subject.
Martyn Bates Cd release sees the first complete cycle of song settings of Chamber Music’s entire canon of thirty-six poems since it was written in 1902.
Chamber Music Vol.2 by Martyn Bates was released in November 1995 on Sub Rosa.
Mystery Seas (Letters Written #2) (A-Scale 018, 1995, Cd)
You, Looking to Me for a Sign/Shorepoem/Calm of Dark/Imagination Feels Like Poison/Trade Winds/Over the Waters/Everywhere There’s Rain/Empty Pages/Midday Coming Misty/On the Beach of Fontana/Sky After All/Fragment (Little Star #1)/If I Could See in Everyone/Of Night/Gift
About this Cd released by A-Scale in 1995 they told us:
1995 sees Martyn Bates exploring further the seeds of ideas contained within his first solo work of some thirteen years ago, the criminally lost, legendary ‘Letters Written’ collection. Comprising songs composed during that period (circa 1982) together with brand new songs in the idiom, this new collection of highly personal “letters” – organ-based songs and performances – is entitled ‘Mystery Seas (Letters Written #2)’. Haunted, richly melodic and lyrical these new recordings are most emphatically songs, and as such they veer away from the more “experimental” areas that Martyn has been working in of late. Recorded at Ambivalent Scale in March thru’ May 1995 (by Eyeless In Gaza’s Peter Becker), this music is drenched in the myriad resonances of “folk”, whilst simultaneously circumnavigating any rigid and limiting definition. (“Folk” = the “folk soul”, the “collective unconscious”.) With voice/lyrics to the fore, and with a (for the most part) skeletal, simplistic instrumentation, Mystery Seas evokes a music of creaking ships, echoes, of distant sea-shanty, light thru’ broken stained glass windows, blighted misfortune, morning light, searching glances, of each story running thru’ them of salt water, clear rhyme and reason, of each mask, of a night sky – tall wall of no more, of floods of thought/unsettling fetters, of “tears or words seeming to rip the surface, alerting and dumbfounding at one and the same time”: – songs of a beautiful secret to own ……
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