Twelve Thousand Days
In the Garden of Wild Stars
(Musica Maxima Magnetica eee37, Martyn Bates and Alan Trench (Orchis) as 12,000 Days, May 15 2000, Cd)
by Steven Teref
Dark Folk: Twelve Thousand Days is a new project by Martyn Bates (Eyeless In Gaza) and Alan Trench (Orchis). Some of you may know Bates from his collaboration with Mick Harris; others will recognize Trench’s name from his work on Nurse With Wound’s Thunder Perfect Mind. Presented here is an abundant collection of delicate dark folk that shimmers with added musical atmospheres without losing the central strumming and plucking of acoustic guitars that keeps this moody wonder together. Both Trench and Bates lend their noted melancholic voices to bring out the forlorn lyrics poetic beauty. They even make the poignant choice of using the poetry of Yeats and Tennyson. The feat here is that Trench and Bates’ lyrics complement these masters. The quality of these compositions is quite stunning. They succeed without being the least bit melodramatic.
by D.M.K. (Eveningoflight.nl, Late 2006)
In The Garden of Wild Stars is the first album by Twelve Thousand Days, a project of Martyn Bates (Eyeless In Gaza) and Alan Trench (Orchis, Temple Music). The collaboration of these two gentlemen is very fortunate, because In The Garden of Wild Stars is full of beautiful, echanting, and original folk.
The music is open and accessible, but has a dark undercurrent on the whole CD. Despite its psychedelic touch, the folk of Twelve Thousand Days remains close to authentic folk music, represented by the use of traditional melodies for “The Moon Is Down”, “The Grey Cock”, and “Sally Free and Easy”, the last of which features Tracy Jeffery (Orchis) on backing vocals. The fairytale-like atmosphere is also tangible in the lyrics, which are a mix of traditional stories, such as the “Reynardine”-like “Dun Fox”, mysticism (“Wandering Aengus” of W.B. Yeats), and personal reflection, in “12,000 Days”, for example.
The magical, mysterious tone is introduced right away by the atmospheric “Let The Evening In”, where Bates is accombanied by just the hooting of an owl. The up-tempo “The Moon Is Down” is a wonderful cover of “Fleance”, which Third Ear Band wrote for the soundtrack of Roman Polanski’s Macbeth. The serene “Stricken Fields” is also very worthwhile, because of the great use of electric guitar, just like in “Jennet pt II”, where the flute melody is also very impressive. The calm “Wandering Aengus” is also definitely one of the highlights. Another excellent track is the ritualistic, trance-like “Burning Incense”. But, all the other tracks are very good as well. There is a great variation of instruments and sounds throughout the album, from traditional folk instrumentation to ambient drones, but the atmosphere is always consistent. The only downside of this album is the production, which could have been a bit more clear and bright, so that the songs would be even more expressive.
This album is a modern classic of psychedelic folk. The collaboration of Bates and Trench gives the music a wholly unique character, and this album is a must-have for anyone interested in modern folk.
by Antony Burnham (Metamorphic Journeyman)
As with the equally worthy CREATURE BOX album [as yet unreleased], this collection looked for a while like it would never see release. MARTYN BATES had obviously earned himself enough brownie points to convince MMM that they should follow up the now-legendary Murder Ballads triptych with this bountiful collection of songs. In this he has collaborated with ALAN TRENCH, who apparently came up with the project title (he estimated that, given his age, this was the total span of his remaining life expectency – illness and accident notwithstanding) – creepily, and somewhat poignantly, this number is probably around a thousand days out – almost 1/12th – don't ponder that one too long!
And the opening track is a kind of brief coda to the Murder Ballads sound – transcending from dark creepy nightmare to more familiar nocturnal sounds – owls set to MARTYN’s voice – effective. From here it enters more familiar BATES solo sound – Folk influence so huge it towers above the atmospherics, while being knitted and united with them. This album has beauty and charm, and where it lacks some of the almost angry passion of former releases, it gains in creating a tranquil atmosphere while forming some of the best songs we have heard from MARTYN in years. Obviously, his time spent fallow singing Tradition songs by other people, and EYELESS IN GAZA’s more abstract, less song-driven music of late, has polarised his ability to create beauteous word-puzzles. The voice is, as ever, as delicate as a moth’s wing, as clear as dew on the spider’s web in the morning.
Who does what in the creation of this music I cannot tell. There are definite BATES-isms here, especially in the rhythms of the guitar. When MARTYN steps back from the mike to allow ALAN to exercise his lungs, the overall tone changes to a more CURRENT 93 / early COIL sound, tonally smoother.
It’s difficult to say where the high points are here, but there are no lows – it’s a consistent, wonderful album. The calming balm of ‘Wandering Aengus’ (with words by W. B. YEATS) has a lullabye feel to it.
by Stewart Mason (allmusic)
Twelve Thousand Days is the experimental ambient duo of keyboardist and guitarist Martyn Bates (best known for his work as half of the duo Eyeless in Gaza) and producer Alan Trench, who more often records under the name Orchis. Twelve Thousand Days continues with the ideas first explored in Bates’ two solo albums called Chamber Music: The instrumentation is mostly acoustic guitar, with synthesizers and tape processing used as atmosphere and color, and two of the songs are settings of poems by Walter de la Mare, Tennyson, and Yeats. Bates sings with an easy, unaffected grace throughout, with the almost a cappella opening track “Let the Evening In” a particular highlight. Immersing himself once again in traditional British folk music (his first field of musical interest as a child), Bates also reworks several traditional songs on this album, most notably “The Grey Cock,” a familiar ballad that he transforms into something new and different sounding through the use of Trench’s keyboards and effects. Perhaps too folky for electronica fans and too weird for folk purists, In the Garden of Wild Stars is nonetheless an impressive achievement.