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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

Charlene

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Review of the Day

Music A.M., "A Heart & Two Stars"
Quatermass
Some bands just come together and beautiful sounds start to flow out. It's rare, but when it happens and the band is a true collaboration reflecting equal parts of all involved it can be truly amazing. Luke Sutherland has made some fascinating music with Long Fine Killie and Bows, as well as contributing lovely violin to recent Mogwai releases. Volker Bertelmann is making a name for himself with the electronic pop machinations of Tontraeger, and the two decided a project together might be in order. After working together a short time, with Sutherland's smooth vocals and delicate guitar complementing Bertelmann's beats and keys quite nicely, the two decided some bass might round out the sound a bit better. Enter workaholic Stefan Schneider, who loved what he heard and jumped in, becoming a full member of the band and adding his own trademark flavorings. This is indeed the aforementioned rare musical tour de force; the soundtrack of waking dreams, remembering what just happened in the mind and knowing that it was truly magnificent. Sutherland's lyrics are freshly bizarre when present ("boy bands just escape me", "that's just fucking heartbreak if you're a guy"), but it's clear why his work as an author has been lavished in recent years: he has a poet's heart with a satirist's delivery. The two electronic gurus craft a comfortable bed for it all to lie on, and lie it does, like a young couple staring at the clouds or stars above in wistful complacence. Even when Sutherland doesn't feel the need to sing and the trio just play, it's truly hair-raising all over the place. Perfect programmed beats and chiming guitars meet with low dull bass and Rhodes in ways that are guaranteed to put a smile on the face. This is one I'll want to hear more of in the future, I'm sure, and hopefully they're game to make it. 

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