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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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The Eye: Video of the Day

The Locust

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Review of the Day

Cursor Miner, "Explosive Piece Of Mind"
Lo Recordings
This debut full-length from Rob Tubb, who must surely be Chichester's premier retro-electro crooner, follows his recent "Remote Control" single, also on Lo Recordings. While the electroclash cultural blip has made me wary of contemporary musicians who pay overt homage to the 1980s, I've plenty of time for those working in a more underground, principled, fashion (for example Gerhard Potuznik). Cursor Miner is definitely to be counted amongst the most interesting of such musicians, fabricating something original and fun from the lighter side of 1980s English synth-pop and the geeky, meticulous side of modern electronica.
Instead of just dropping a ponderous vocal on to a club-friendly beat, he deftly merges the electro-pop basics of warm, resonant keyboard riffs and fey vocals with up-to-the-minute production work that's manic and crisp. The package is completed by a nice line in retro-futuristic lyrics, most notably on the single "Remote Control" itself, which ironically feigns both wonder at, and fear of, modern technology.
Cursor Miner's music is a forward-looking form of nostalgia. The fact that he doesn't take the easy route of pure 1980s revivalism means probably won't get the following it deserves, but on the other hand, he won't end up eviscerated and embarrassed on the altar of mass whim like, say, Fischerspooner. Quite simply, this is an excellent album for fans of interesting electro-pop and one which brings something new to the game.

 

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