Martyn Bates ‎– I Said To Love ( A-Scale Recordings ‎in 2017)

9 Jan

Within this excellent and finely crafted album of songs dedicated “to the future”, there lies a puzzle, an enigma. With Eyeless In Gaza tending more and more towards the collaged soundscaping type situation where “the studio is very much an instrument” there is also Martyn Bates’ solo work, with his albums of late travelling in quite the opposite direction, all having the distinctive feel of being performance based voice/guitar type records.

Initial listenings to Bates’ new album take all of that elsewhere however, and extend it – with the results ending up kind of schizoid in character. The more familiar ‘introspective’ songs and voice remain for sure, yet they’re often contrasted wildly with a brace of noisier and more musically complex “duo” songs played and sung by Bates together with chanteuse Elizabeth S. These ‘opposing’ styles often seem to clash at first, crazily contrasting in tone and mood, creating a not altogether unpleasant tension – which actually turns out to make more sense on repeated hearings. A good example of this would be the quiet, whispering aura of “At Last”, followed with the pummelling, disturbing melee of “Hallucination”.

Also, somehow managing to stray outside of all this sturm und drang, the album holds a different kind of gem of a song yet, in its title track – “I Said To Love” – which finds Bates pitted against a string section for the first time in eons, and … it works too – bitter, bitter sweet, indeed. Bates has never been one to shy away from tackling grand themes, with the songs on I Said to Love staying true to form – dealing with mystery, rest, space, hallucinations, hindsight, loss, pity, hope, transformation, having your soul stolen & recovered, solace, deja vu, despair, resistance, delirium, entropy, determination – amongst other similarly chewable topics. The key however is in the album’s penultimate track, the haunted “I Look Back”, where Bates eschews his usual poetic lyric style – a style that can sometimes come across as overtly personal and as an almost private language – portraying within this one lyric a peculiarly single-minded determination. Somehow, listening through these words, they seem to summon up something personal in term of locating new spirit, a new direction for Martyn Bates’ whole oeuvre – we’re looking back, and it just isn’t right … how can we hope, if our hope lives in memories? … we must face our fear for there’s no turning back: just a set of simply framed words that manage to mirror the equally plain statement of dedication to be found on the album sleeve of I Said to Love – “to the future”. On the sheer melodic strength and diversity of this music, this is one future that I will eagerly await.


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