Musica Maxima Magnetica
M.J. Harris/Martyn Bates – Murder Ballads (Incest Songs)

release date 21.06.1998, catalogue no. eee 40

Post-Isolationist – Investigating a new form via the ‘Murder Ballads’ series (Drift, Passages and Incest Songs) by M.J. Harris/Martyn Bates

1998 and Murder Ballads (Incest Songs), the final volume of the triology, is realized, a release that further evolves post-isolationist ideas by dispensing with the voice/one instrument approach deployed on Drift and Passages. Incest Songs utilises varying applications of multiple voice treatments, as Martyn Bates vocalisations/storytelling song-voices are by turns expressed as lybyrinthine layers, calls and responses, muted and distant echoes, sung whispers and counter-melodies, ultimately resulting in a mesmeric conversation of musical inferences and correspondences Murder Ballads (Incest Songs) pushes at the post-isolationist frame of reference, innovating and extemporising further, refining and updating a truly original dazzingly unique form. Four years after its inception, somewhat surprisingly, it still remains an area overlooked by other artists working within its proximities … an area that is still truly the sole province of M.J. Harris/Martyn Bates.

Extract from an interview:

Q: The final volume of the ‘Murder Ballads triology’ Incest Songs … whilst sticking to your original concept, feels substantially different to its two predecessors. Why did you choose one particular topic for the song-words this time?

Martyn Bates: “With this third volume of Murder Ballads, I was intent on using a multivoice format where voices overlap, saturate and blur; … I guess its true to say that my decision to use ‘Incest’ song-texts was influenced by the fact that I knew all the voices on the recording would be mine … so it seemed fitting to me, that if I am going to be ‘cross-fertilising’ my voices as it were, then its both relevant and appropriate to sing ‘incest’ songs!”

Mick Harris: “Personally, I think that this third volume is the best of the Triology … there is a definite, audible progression thru the three volumes … the multi-voice idea has taken what we’ve done further out, I feel, to somewhere different again, beyond my soundscapes, the work I do with Lull … also, curiously, these pieces have definitely got more of a ‘drugged’ feel … .”

Martyn Bates: “Well … there is a disconcerting ‘narcotic’ quality of beauty to Incest Songs, tho that isn’t quite the best way to describe the effect, to my mind … I mean to say, the aim was to create a dream-like music, something mellifluous, mesmeric yet still infused with that characteristic stillness … that slow, hypnotic unfolding of a graceful, gossamer kind of subtlety. To me, Incest Songs is the apogee of our own personal explorations of this genre that we’ve created … there’s a beautiful finality, a certainty to what we’ve done on this CD, I feel, in personal terms … listening to it, I think it’s easy to detect that the whole thing has been a truly exhilarating experience for the both of us, realising and developing this strange, sublime creature of ours … and now I guess it’s up to others to take up the challenge, to build on what we’ve done … and I think that there are still SO MANY fantastic possibilities … .”