Martyn Bates
Arriving Fire
(A-Scale ASR 048, March 24, 2014, Cd)

Review 1

Arriving Fire

MARTYN BATES Arriving Fire (A–Scale Records CD) by Phil McMullen (Bull Tongue Review, 2014)

Amongst my more debatable habits, I might include that of favoring solo albums amongst my preferred releases by any given band. Albums by Ernie Graham, Gordon Haskell, Reg King, Rick Hayward and Bob Bannister all score highly on my Desert Island Incline (much, much bigger than a mere list...), not all of them recognized solo artists in their own right by any means.

I love the intimacy of them, the extra effort that so often goes into them – there’s no hiding place on a solo album – and the fact that the supporting musicians are often surprises filched from some band you never expected the artist to have an association with.

Martyn Bates of Eyeless in Gaza recently confided in me that “few people seem to get my solo stuff, somehow,” admitting himself that songs like “World's Eye,” which closes this album, “is strange and unusual territory for for someone that gets pigeonholed into the boxes I find myself pigeonholed into.” Well, all power to Martyn for pushing that particular envelope. The song in question counts amongst my favorites on here, with a cacophonous medley to open that gives way to strummed guitar and a haunting refrain about love, loneliness and yearning. The title track itself sounds for all the world like a Six Organs of Admittance out-take, with similarly trembling vocals flitting across some nimble-fingered six-string fretwork. “Liar’s Roses” is simply beautiful. “The Rhyme of Miracles,” which has nothing to do with ancient mariners, sings to us of flight, and conversely “Flight” beautifully echoes the swell of the sounding sea.

[PDF of review here.]

Review 2

by Paolo Bertoni (Blow Up # 182, May 2014)


Review 3

by/par Denis Boyer (Feardrop, 2014-11-26)

[French original below]

Mania Sour undoubtedly offers a welcome, ideal opportunity to look afresh at how the world would appear as defined by the duo of Eyeless In Gaza: here there are rich variations, which yet can be broken down – even in this new world. The band’s previous album, Everyone Feels Like A Stranger, freed enough of their trademark minimalist melancholy voice freshness and combined it with scholarly instrumental graduated undulations, to evoke two such dissimilar Eyeless albums Rust Red September and Back From The Rains. The twist in the Eyeless in Gaza DNA superimposes these two distinct strands into a critical, crossing and combining thread. Now, closer than ever to the folk ghost they have always invoked, Martyn Bates and Peter Becker lay bare their compositions, and the breakthrough to the bone is awakened by a pertinent warmth – as with the energy generated by their UR-discs Photographs As Memories and Pale Hands I Loved So Well, even with some songs from Caught In Flux. The forever young voice of Martyn Bates, is still more richly apparent in this new music, ever open to the possibilities of flowing and fluidity – and with this new album Mania Sour this can be felt as akin to the most icy tempestuous waterfalls rising and falling crazily, yet coming to fruition. Certainly, Bates abstracted electric guitar playing forms the pivot around which all these temperaments circle – coming to confer such a strong and imploring attraction. Perhaps eroded by so many contacts with bass, percussion, piano and manipulated sounds, this guitar is both one of the most nervous in the group’s history and one of the most frayed. Collapsed in the borders of sounds, strings paradoxically extend in a musical world where one of the pillars has always been aesthetic minimalism. This then, is the core strength of the evanescent and elusive atmosphere captured in this music.

Meanwhile, in the same colour sleeve even, there is a pertinent reminder to new wave folk in the new solo album by Martyn Bates, Arriving Fire. Accompanied once again on some tracks by Peter Becker, Elizabeth S and Alan Trench, Martyn Bates always find the right tone to survey these ballads. Like rainy forest roads, we meet on the path of light acoustic strings, ringing, field recordings, benevolence and research of grace, with nostalgia refused and immobile. Well known ramifications appear at the crossings – the song ‘Port of Stormy Lights’ takes the title of the EP Martyn Bates published by Sordide Sentimental way back in 1990. Within this music there are breathing spaces … taken here and there, within this deceptively minimal musical universe there is a glimpse at the settling place of an agreement … heard within a harmonic organ keyboard, which portrays the contentment of a song like the dawn – an illuminating landscape in which the viewer attunes the penalties/exaltations of a solitary heart with what he contemplates.

Mania Sour est sans doute l’occasion de regarder combien le monde si défini du duo Eyeless In Gaza recèle de riches variations, lesquelles peuvent se décliner dans la nouveauté. Le précédent album, Everyone Feels Like A Stranger, libérait assez de mélancolie brumeuse et minimaliste, de fraîcheur vocale alliée à de savantes pentes instrumentales pour évoquer dans le même temps deux albums aussi dissemblables que Rust Red September et Back From The Rains. La torsade ADN d’Eyeless in Gaza superpose ses hélices, jusqu’à les croiser. Aujourd’hui, plus proches que jamais du fantôme folk qu’ils ont toujours invoqué, Martyn Bates et Peter Becker ont dénudé leurs compositions, et cette percée jusqu’à l’os a réveillé comme par échauffement l’énergie produite par leur disques fondateurs Photographs As Memories et Pale Hands I Loved So Well, voire certaines chansons de Caught In Flux. La voix éternellement jeune de Martyn Bates, s’apparente toujours plus aux possibilités de l’eau dont ce nouvel album Mania Sour fait sentir les cataractes les plus glacées et les plus bouillonnantes. Certainement, la guitare joue le rôle du pivot autour de quoi tous les tempéraments du disque viennent s’aboucher comme par appel centrifuge. Peut-être érodé par tant de contacts avec les basses, les percussions, le piano et les sons manipulés, cette guitare est à la fois l’une des plus nerveuses de l’histoire du groupe et l’une des plus effrangées. Effondrées dans les sons de bordures, les cordes s’étendent paradoxalement dans un monde musical dont l’un des piliers esthétiques a toujours été le minimalisme. La force de la brume sans doute.

Même teinte de pochette, et même rappel à un folk new wave dans le nouvel album solo de Martyn Bates, Arriving Fire. Accompagné une fois encore sur certains morceaux de Peter Becker, d’Elisabeth S et d’Alan Trench, Martyn Bates trouve toujours le ton juste pour arpenter ses ballades pluvieuses comme des chemins forestiers. On y rencontre, sur le tracé des cordes acoustiques lumineuses, des tintements, des field recordings, la bienveillance et la recherche de la grâce, la nostalgie qui refuse l’immobile. Des ramifications bien connues apparaissent aux croisements – le morceau ‘Port of Stormy Lights’ reprend le titre du EP de Martyn Bates publié par Sordide Sentimental en 1990. Des respirations envahissent çà et là cet univers musical faussement minimal pour terminer de faire entrevoir, au coin d’un accord, d’un harmonique d’orgue, le contentement d’un chant comme une aube, un surplomb du paysage dans lequel le spectateur met en résonance les peines et les exaltations de son c¦ur solitaire avec ce qu’il contemple.