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BATES, MARTYN - Fireworks & Jewels / The Colour of Amber

Format: CD
Label & Cat.Number: Ambivalent Scale Records ASR 053
Release Year: 2015
Note: 3rd album in a kind of trilogy of works, that started with "Unsung" (2012) and continued with "Arriving Fire" (2014), being collections of mostly guitar/voice pieces with a focus on SONG... an album about those moments in life that occur like " an elusive, tantalising light that you know is eternal, and forever, and yet its somehow, always, always held out of reach" [Martyn Bates]
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"Fireworks & Jewels is the 3rd solo album in as many years from Eyeless In Gazas Martyn Bates being a collection of mostly voice/guitar pieces with a focus on the SONG words and music stripped to core elements. Working with these elements, Elizabeth S. and Alan Trench introduce subtle colours to the body of these performances with Trench adding particularly deft applications of electronics & tape treatments creating a whole other supporting soundworld for the seeming fragility of Bates apparently often elusively private world of words & music. As Bates states, for him, the whole process of music-making is cathartic. On this occasion the resulting songs address some elusive and mercurial ideas and concepts. According to Bates: I wanted to put across the way that during heightened moments in everyday life within those moments where there are fireworks & jewels as you might say theres always a spark or a thought there that flashes the colour amber an elusive, tantalising light that you know is eternal, and forever, and yet its somehow, always, always held out of reach . The appropriate watchwords here might well be, perhaps, Process & Effect, Illusion & Reality, or feasibly, in keeping with the albums title, Shadow & Substance.

Fireworks & Jewels / The Colour of Amber was completed July 2015 and recorded at Bridge House Studios, on the Greek isle of Evia the atmosphere of whose current social and political situation of doubt and uncertainty could perhaps be said to have had a noticeable influence upon the brooding & unsettled spirit at work throughout this album."
[label info]


"Looking back to the year of twenty-fifteen, my audio intake was considerably pepped up by the appearance of the "Mythic Language"/"Egg Box Mask" triple c.d. set. So much so that this retrospective from British post punk/art pop duo Eyeless in Gaza was made number one with a bullet by yours truly on the Terrascope yearly poll.

So now, only a matter of months later, the Becker/Bates family tree (pictured as an ancient yew in an English country churchyard of course...), has sprouted an extra limb with the emergence of "Fireworks..."; Martyn Bates' sixteenth (!) solo outing (on almost as many labels, I might add). To discover that was certainly a surprise (thank you Discogs!), as I simply had no idea he was that prolific!

This beautifully artworked/six-panelled disc (his third in as many years...), finds Martyn joined by Alan Trench ('tronix/sundry percussives/field recordings/kitchen sink) and the mysteriously named banjo player and backing vocalist Elizabeth S. It's a baker's dozen of dream pop constructs in which a slight sense of unease might be detected which, according to the accompanying cribsheet, could be due to the fact that the recording took place on the Greek isle of Evia, during Greece's economic/political upheaval(s). Things mostly focus on Martyn's acoustic guitar work and vocalese and emphasise a concept of pure songcraft, where certain emotional states are laid bare for all to experience. Introspective soul transmissions, if you will, that come nuanced by a number of impressionistic backdops that thankfully, don't overpower the proceedings one jot. Whichever way you huffle the pack there's always seems to be something of genuine worth. Take for example an adaption of a Walter de la Mare poem "Embers, Starry Tapers"; a vision of otherworldliness, which largely comprises of solo vox humana and layered, lighter than air vocal atmospherics. Then there's the finger-cramping banjo exercises underpinning "Belong" and "The Fall", a personal favourite in which a rhythm bed of stately piano lines is deftly overturned by what appears to be a splurge of sustained feedback/sheet metal that has the signature of Master William Reid; late of the J.A.M.C. imprinted upon it. Excellent.

Copies are available through the Eyeless website (see above) and also through the auspices of Rough Trade, i-tunes (who they?) and Amazon. Order early to avoid disappointment... accept no imitations etc etc... "[Steve Pescott, Terrascope UK]