Eyeless In Gaza
Caught in Flux/The Eyes of Beautiful Losers
(BRED 18/12 BRED 18, Sept 1981, Lp/Ep12”)
by Mick Duffy (New Musical Express, September 19 1981)
WITH ANIMATED gestures of disdain Eyeless In Gaza can answer detractors who dismissed their debut LP, ‘Photographs As Memories’, as a precious exercise in the art of self-indulgence. ‘Caught In Flux’, the band’s second offering of the year, is a measure of progress, and though there’s still room for growth some mark of maturity has undoubtedly been forged.
‘Caught In Flux’ a package which includes an additional ‘free’ 12” Eyeless sampler, ‘The Eyes Of Beautiful Losers’ is a piercing, poison jab into the blood-stream of rock music’s lazy limbs. Radical but clear, Eyeless set the examples for others to follow by eradicating standard rock structures and starting out from now tangents. Accessible experimentalists whose work roughly moulds fresh shapes of things to come, they don’t seek to advance or change rock. They seek to destroy it completely.
Their alternative is to present frail labyrinth of subtle sound, a strange menagerie of modern mood music that holds melody, has poise and a lot of style. All of which is enhanced by Martyn Bates’ distinctive vocals which are as versatile as they are uniquely employed. Whether crooning along to some reflective ballad or spitting out some punchy polemic, Bates’ alluring voice is an awesome focus of attention.
But ‘Caught In Flux’ is most specifically an introspective LP, a thoughtful compilation of new songs and sound patterns, skilfully patched together and performed, It’s a meditative music for active minds, an exciting vision of a brave new whirl. Eyeless … but not blind!
SOMETIMES reading record reviews can be confusing experience. Take Eyeless In Gaza debut album Photographs As Memories for example. “Pedantic and self-conscious” NME. “An interesting, invigorating listen” Melody Maker. “Stinkingly awful” Record Mirror.
And there you go, depending on which weekly you happen to subscribe to a totally subjective opinion on the sort of album best left to the listener to decide upon. (Ask your local record bar to spin Seven Years and if that alone doesn’t render purchase essential then we’re not going to get on very well.)
I’m happy to say that Caught In Flux comes to me with no Press blurbs or already fixed ideas definitely the best way to face a new album. And it’s value-for-money all right, because besides a standard album there’s a 12-inch single (over 20 minutes’ worth) and it’s beautifully packaged.
Eyeless In Gaza, who take their name from a novel by Aldous Huxley, are a two-piece outfit consisting of Martyn Bates and Peter Becker who utilise a minimalist set-up of keyboards and guitar with occasional drums augmenting the barren sound.
Their music is eclectic, though not to the paint of being inaccessible (the Red Crayola spring to mind) and while it’s all rather broody and foreboding there is a wonderful sense of care and feeling, both in the passionate vocals (mainly Bates) and the harsh, grating power of the jaggedly strummed guitar.
There is no commercial consideration in Gaza music. It may loosely be termed “avant garde” but the overwhelming fierceness of the album will strike away any fears of dilettantism. Becker and Bates are occasionally self-indulgent, and perhaps 60 minutes of soul-searching, deeply […].
EYELESS IN Gaza are Martyn Bates and Peter Becker. They’ve made two singles, “Kodak Ghosts Run Amok” and the more recent and excellent “Invisibility”, and now two albums “Photographs As Memories” last year’s debut and “Caught In Flux”, a two-record set.
Record one, the overall title of which is “The Eyes Of Beautiful Losers”, is a five-track-forty-five-speed-twelve-inch-disc. It differs from its companion set in that it is less intense, more atmospheric there’s less attack, less guitar. Its title track is a cavern of synthetic sound, of non-verbal voice and echoed shafts of guitar, both sad and reflective; it sums up the title well.
“Still Air” reminds me of mid-period Incredible String Band take something like their “Air” and translate it into the idiom of now, and you might see what I mean. The remaining tracks on the 45, though less effective for me, are all worthwhile.
“Caught In Flux” as the whole set and album two are entitled, covers a wide range of emotion and intensity though it doesn’t soften its edges or pull punches. The rhythmic guitar, a strange mix of punk thrash and more controlled picking and, Bates’ voice a cry of passion are both harsh. This album will not easily win them floor space alongside Legs & Co.
“Sixth Sense” which opens the first side, leads into the album in a mood which picks up from their debut, before the more directly intense sound takes over. The angry acoustic guitar bites, the voice snarls. But they don’t lose control this is today’s music for today.
The instrumental elements vary, but they generally work together check “The Decoration” on the first side or “Rose Petal Knot”, where the synth bounces along behind the guitar, giving an added depth to its momentum. Likewise “Half-Light”, where the synth is both full and flowing. “Every Which Way”, the track that closes the album, is a personal high point, built again around Peter Becker’s sparse but effective keyboard work.
Eyeless In Gaza are a band to take time over the rewards of their work is in prolonged listening, as I discovered with the first album. And it would be pointless saying it will please everybody when it won’t. There are times I know when I could not listen. The harsher elements on a lot of tracks, the voice and guitar, can overwhelm. Sometimes their music is too pained.
Nonetheless, like a stiff breeze, Eyeless In Gaza can be exhilarating. You could say I’m caught in flux.
[See also CD reviews. -Ed.]