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Eyeless in Gaza, "Summer Salt & Subway Sun"

cover image Eyeless in Gaza's latest release is a two-album set bundled in a colorful and lavish hinged box. The discs each come in an oversized, book-bound jacket and, along with a thick lyric booklet, make for an impressive package. It's a shame, then, that the music isn't nearly so stunning as the presentation.


Beta-lactam Ring

Although they were completed a year apart, these two albums mine remarkably similar territory. The sparkling production values are noticeable, but the result is that all of the rough edges have been polished away, leaving a somewhat uniform sheen to even the most disparate tracks. Not helping matters are small things like field recordings that are too glossy to lend any real texture or canned drums and dated keyboard sounds that appear throughout these songs. Sometimes Martyn Bates' over-earnest singing borders on melodrama, and his upfront delivery doesn't change much from song to song. In smaller doses it's fine, but over the course of two albums, some sort of significant variation would have been nice.

Yet the real problem is that these albums lack any real urgency or excitement. Despite the strong, multifaceted arrangements and attention to detail in the mix, these songs take the safe road far too frequently and don't take enough chances. With too much of an emphasis on delicate atmospheres, yearning vocals, and strained beauty, noticeable tempo changes or even a tiny bit of genuine abrasion would go a long way toward making these albums more dynamic and fulfilling. The sameness in mood and execution simply wears thin.

Even so, there still are some enjoyable moments to be found on these recordings. From Summer Salt, "Whitening Rays" combines many of Gaza's best qualities and fuels anticipation for what follows, while "Antipathy Whisper" is probably this album's most upbeat and fully realized song. Despite their similarity, Subway Sun has slightly better tracks, yet isn't without its drawbacks. "Antiphony in Whispers" begins with great textures, but the excessive delay and reverb on the drums makes it sound like an experiment from twenty years ago. But "Zeal" possesses real purpose and exuberance, followed by the instrumental "One-Legged," which uses tapes and manipulated guitar to create the most engaging track of either album.

These albums are by no means terrible, just a bit too polite and boring. The lush yet undifferentiated production unfortunately makes the songs somewhat bland and forgettable, leaving me wishing for something with a little more bite.



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Review of the Day

The second Rip-Off Artist album, "Brain Salad Surgery", was reviewed on the Brain back in summer around the time it was released. This is actually his first album, which was released by Quatermass only a month before the second due to label procrastination, and after a time warp caused by a huge pile of promo CD's and not enough ears to go round, this one is getting reviewed so late that the prolific Matt Haines has already got a third album out! I can't comment on "Pump" on Mille Plateaux as I haven't heard it yet! His Rip-Off Artist persona is a comment on his plunderphonic compositions. He steals bits of other records, even their titles, but hopes that people won't actually steal this CD. Presumably it's OK to sample his records though. He's sampled children's toys and sing-along records to make this funky stew which is a little more obviously humourous than his more streamlined second album. However he doesn't want this regarded as a comedy record, which is probably just as well when the best joke is a bunch of kids blowing out birthday cake candles shouting, "123, blow!" before a particularly slick keyboard break. The Rip-Off Artist is perhaps at his best when he makes wierder noises, as on the appropriately titled 'Something Strange'. There always seems to be a fractured and skewed electro pulse trying to flex, but it usually gets jittered up and slung on its head. 'Gizmo' adds some daft sexual innuendo to a Kraftwerk like vocoder voice that sings, "I like to play with my gizmo, I like to play all day long." Subtract the ribbits and the odd lyric about being a frog wanting a kiss, and 'Cream' is a pretty straightforward electro-funk work out with a lascivous hopped up rap from Crescent Raye Born. Kids records should educate with amusement, and thanks to the Rip-Off Artist I now know that Tater Tots are hot, and that they're not a tomato, but I'm not sure exactly what they are. If anyone wants to advertise them there's a ready made jingle here that could earn Matt Haines a few pennies. "Would you like a slice of cheese?" asks a chirpy looped woman on the very short track 'Silly'. There's plenty of that to go round too! The second album on Hot Air is more convincing but this is quite an enjoyable dose of daft disco diving.



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