Eyeless In Gaza
Home Produce: Country Bizarre – The Tago Mago recordings: remixed and expanded
(NDN 37, June 26 2003, Cd with Lol Coxhill)

Review 1

(Ptolemaic Terrascope, Winter 2003/2004 issue)

The Home Produce/Country Bizarre CD originally saw life some twenty-one years ago as a limited cassette release on the Tago Mago label, which was run by Pascal Bussy; the scribe behind early Can and Kraftwerk biogs. It saw Eyeless in Gaza & Lol Coxhill occupying different floors of the same house, yet never interacting. But now with this laudable reissue, EIG have blended Lol’s spectral soprano wail with their own current investigations into improv-theory and forged an entirely new set of instrumental pieces, bristling with rare invention and spirit. It’s an Eyeless in Gaza that may not be THAT familiar to those who treasure those old Cherry Reds. With a burgeoning interest in the anti-musical parameters of metal pipes and sheeting, their soundworld has taken on more angular and jarring aspects since those days when they almost seemed to have taken root in the independent charts. Lol Coxhill: looking very dapper in dinner jacket on the front sleeve (a pic cribbed from the ‘Fleas in Custard’ LP) is quite obviously a national treasure and on the strength of this, the Gaza boys aren’t lagging far behind. Even though this is the audio equivalent of the cinematic pre-production ‘blue screen’ the threesome bounce off each other SO well. Now how about some recordings where all three of you are in the room at the same time? An essential purchase. (www.ndnrecords.com)

Review 2

by Keith Moline (The Wire issue 239, January 2004)

The Tago Mago cassette imprint produced some great documents of the late 70s/80s underground. This release is a timely reminder that the true ancestors of todays hard disc Phil Spectors are the bedroom overdubbers thrown up by the advent of the Portastudio. Originally featuring mischievous free sax giant Lol Coxhill and pale post-punk aesthetes Eyeless in Gaza on one side each of a C30, Home Produce, here augmented by a further half-hour of remixes which merge their material into a completely new set of pieces, is a prime artefact of those innocent and exciting times.

Coxhills original compositions are typically playful solo improvisations and four track overdub mini-epics. The Odd Fellows Ball rides on a quasi-township groove whose good-humoured swagger radiates so strongly through the hiss and flutter of what must have been a fair number of bounce downs that one half-expects Chris McGregor or Mongezi Feza to make an appearance. On Echoes of Falmer, he duets with himself and a host of muddy analogue delays, his quicksilver logic allowing the piece to cover a huge range of atmospheres over its seven minutes, from the portentous muezzin wail with which it opens to the bubbling swing of its latter stages, just before the tape rather charmingly runs out.

The Eyeless In Gaza pieces which originally featured are somewhat reminiscent of their more leftfield Pale Hands I Loved So Well album. Ticking clocks and rudely struck tea trays underpin horror-flick scrapings and ghostly melodica themes. Voices murmur in the half distance. For Edward has spooky seismic rumbles and some scuttling Fred Frith-style guitar. Its unfussy, direct experimentation is far more appealing to these ears than the rather histrionic song albums were producing at the time.

The remixes which merge the original participants contributions work surprisingly well, though its certainly Eyelesss party, with Coxhills material often pitchshifted and shunted around to serve as embellishments to the duos pieces. Mars Lighthouse features Coxhill wailing in the upper registers over distant syndrums and a waspish drone, while No is as scarily ritualistic as anything from Psychic TVs Force The Hand Of Chance debut album. An interesting variation might have been to fold some of their work into the genial vortex of a Coxhill improvisation. Even so, this album suggests that Eyeless In Gaza have been unfairly neglected for way too long.

Review 3

by Rupert Loydell (Tangents.co.uk, July 2003)

Once upon a time there was a decade called the 80s. And at the beginning of it lots of people made music in their bedrooms on basic recording equipment that had suddenly been available at affordable prices. To facilitate this the same people invented lots of independent labels to release their music on, sometimes on round vinyl, called records, more often on cassette tapes. These were often tucked into some kind of resealable bag along with booklets, leaflets, stickers etc and available at independent record shops or direct via mail order.

One such label was Tago Mago. They didn’t seem to last long, and as far as I know nobody involved in the label made music, they just released other people’s for them. I still have two wonderful tapes of theirs, which each came with a big A4 booklet of pretty grim photocopied pages inside a glossy white card cover. They released one of the last This Heat offerings, with weird French composer Albert Marcouer on the other side of the tape; and they released another tape with jazz improviser Lol Coxhill on one side and the Midlands’ finest, Eyeless in Gaza on the other.

Twenty years later and Eyeless in Gaza’s and Lol Coxhill’s Tago Mago recordings have been reissued as Home Produce: Country Bizarre on NDN Records, whose slogan is “mindblowing pieces of plastic for discerning music lovers”. You can’t argue with that can you? What’s interesting is that Eyeless in Gaza have chosen to remix various tracks, and make some new tracks by combining their music with Coxhill’s. So the CD now contains 20 pieces of music, and is both a reissue and a revisitation … .

Most of the music is fragile, echoing improvisation. Coxhill’s saxophones swoop and soar in space, Eyeless mix location recordings with lo-fi experiment on glockenspiels, synths and suchlike; this is well before their attempts at being a pop band. The music drifts around the room and stands in the corner keeping you company; it’s warm and friendly and doesn’t bite. It’s all a little bit vague and tentative, and I confess I prefer the shorter, original version of this release, but it’s good to have it back again in pristine sound: my tape is starting to stretch.

NDN also have a 2001 release by Eyeless’ Martyn Bates. Dance of Hours is a short sonorous CD of avant-folk. Bates voice is full and strong, his words and tunes intriguing and moving. I’m glad he’s still making this music, he’s an overlooked and under-rated composer and singer, somehow bridging the gap between singer-songwriter and more experimental music. He deserves to live happily ever after.

Review 4

di Michele Benetello (Il Mucchio Selvaggio, n. 547)

Bene ha fatto la minuscola NDN a rispolverare nastri del biennio 1981/82 ove Eyeless In Gaza meticciarono le violente frustate di sax dello spiritato avanguardista jazz Lol Coxhill. Operazione strana certo, che sa di Diavolo e Acqua Santa, un po’ come se Turin Brakes passassero la notte con John Zorn o giù di lì; e pure collaborazione sulla quale era sceso garbato e imbarazzante silenzio. Minutaggi di registrazioni rimaste nei cassetti fino al 2000 quando Bates & Becker le hanno riprese in mano riplasmandole, miscelandole e completando idee e frammenti di quel lontano biennio. Invero più farina del tricotico sassofonista, avvertendo nei 20 brani nulle influenze del melodico declamare armonico di Eyeless In Gaza, limitandosi i due alle fasi di rifinitura, cucito sonoro e remixaggio. Piuttosto moquette ambient che non si fatica a vederle parcheggiate in casa degli Orb più stralunati e psicotropi (They Come And They Go In Shards Of Silver); free jazz adultero e dissonanti trombe (The Odd Fellows Ball; Echoes Of Falmer; The Vacant Pool) e carillon inquietanti in November. O il corno medievale sul metallurgico percuotere di Rosary; addirittura poltiglie Laibach e bave dub in Creature Piece o ancora incubi da malsane fiabe nelle quattro Little Suites dove a ombre Coil s’aggrovigliano diafani spettri. Sassofoni psicotici, matrici affini all’area industrial e scoppiettìi sonori per un lavoro oscuro, limaccioso, per niente facile e a tratti pesante, che terrà lontano gli ortodossi del jazz e farà fatica a far breccia tra i comuni odierni acquirenti. Ma, foste avidi divoratori della new wave comunemente intesa, un posticino nei vostri scaffali potreste anche trovarlo.