I Said to Love

Martyn Bates
I Said to Love
(A-Scale ASR056, December 14 2017, Cd/download)

Review 1

by Rupert Loydell (International Times: A Cause for Celebration, January 17 2018)

A new CD from any member of Eyeless in Gaza, or indeed the band themselves, is always a cause for celebration, and I Said to Love is no exception. Whatever Martyn Bates may say about his song tendencies having always been present within Eyeless, this beautiful CD of songs is a million miles away from the raw and sometimes abstract post-punk music that Eyeless in Gaza were producing in the Midlands in the first half of the 1980s, and nearly as distant from the collages and experimental pop songs of later work.

Somewhere along the way Martyn Bates either got interested in or reasserted an interest in the voice as a lead instrument, perhaps drawing on traditional and folk musics. His collaborative releases included a fantastic trilogy of extended and reinterpreted murder ballads made with Mick Harris, as well as reinterpretations of James Joyce poems, as well as more straightforward solo releases, from the glorious 10? LP Letters Written onwards.

On the surface, I Said to Love is an album of songs, sung by Martyn accompanying himself on guitar, but listening reveals a sonic depth: layers of sound such as cymbals, string feathers and ghost feathers [don’t ask!] provided by producer Alan Trench, and a variety of instruments and another voice provided by the enigmatic Elizabeth S. This isn’t just singer-songwriting, this is not busker material.

This carefully layered music allows these songs of despair, love, hallucination, anger and loss to shine. Bates isn’t afraid to emote or wail, celebrate or mourn. In ‘riches, crying moon’ he notes that ‘everything yr seeing/everything yr doing/you want it all for yrs’ is only ‘another damned thing – that you can add to what you’ve got’. Elsewhere there is ‘shimmering’ and ‘ruined flowers’ and ‘soft spoken lies’ where the narrator declares ‘I was blithely charmed to say […] my heart will be your home/how wrong could I be…’. But it’s not all despair and misery. ‘i am bound’ is a declaration of love where ‘everything’s taken/n shaken/n made new once again…’ and the song ‘fight’ sees the singer battling storms and weeping songs to find resolution as he looks ‘wildly upon the song’. It is this trust in the song itself that makes Bates special and unique. He is a musical shaman, a word magician, who knows how to enchant and seduce his audience. One of the joys of listening to Eyeless in Gaza is that their original indie album releases continue to be reissued and readily available, alongside the new work they still produce together and solo. I’d never have believed that 35 years on from their first LP I would still be listening, but here I am. Come and join us, bask in Martyn Bates’ melodic strength and way with words.

Review 2

by Andrew Young (The Terrascope, February 2018)

A straightforward, accessible acoustic affair from Martyn Bates of Eyeless In Gaza, rooted in the singer songwriter mould. Martyn plays acoustic guitar and sings, Elizabeth S plays second guitar, banjo, melodic, drum and harmony vocals along with Alan Tench cymbals, string machine, and ghost feathers.

It starts with “At Last”, a lovely haunting ghostly ballad. Next song “Again Awhile”, is a strident twelve string mid paced song, with big kettle drum, this one reminds me of traditional native north American songs with a wailing accompaniment. “Shimmering“, now hove’s into view, an expansive acoustic song, accompanied by washes of backwards cymbal and banjo, It also introduces us to Alan’s string machine. “Unknown Light”, is a paean to come into the light, spare and delicate in sound. Title track “I Said To Love”, a gentle unwinding song, that seems just out of reach, lightly glinting in the ether. “Hallucination” is another strident twelve string strummer, informed by some of Martyn’s poetic words, again with some ghostly vocals from Elizabeth. “I Am Bound”, is beautifully played and recorded, metaphysical and otherworldly, it has some nice splashes of melodica.

“Softspokenlies”, questions time spent and wasted by untruths, a banjo inflected acoustic song, with some more ghostly interjections. “Spring Dresses Winter”, concerns the seasons and a prolonged cruel winter. “All The Lowlands”, is another gentle haunting ballad. “Ruined Flowers” is one of the highlights, poetic and forlorn but not dreary, coloured this time again by Alan’s string machine. “Riches,Crying Moon”, is a minor key spectral ballad with echoed vocals. “Fight”, is barely there, a mere esper of a song, invested with more lovely poetry, I must say Martyn’s use of words is terrific throughout this album. “I Look Back” is another haunting little gem that has some great atmospherics towards its climax, bleeding out into found sound. “There/Here”, the final song is a short, questing, delicate song of grace and beauty.