Eyeless In Gaza ‘Photographs As Memories’ (Cherry Red, 1981)

When you think about Nuneaton – assuming you make a habit of pondering Warwickshire market towns – your brain may conjure up images of leafy parks, historic buildings or perhaps the bucolic works of seminal author George Eliot, who was born there.

It turns out that for over 40 years, little old Nuneaton has been harbouring something a bit darker, something distinctly spine-chilling… and I’m not talking about the Attleborough bypass.

Eyeless In Gaza were formed in Nuneaton in 1980 by hospital worker Martyn Bates and lab assistant Pete Becker. The intense and sinister nature of their music means that retrospectively, the duo are often lumped in with the post-punk crowd, but in reality their output was extraordinarily multifarious, encompassing both introspective synthesiser collages and violent, guitar-driven thrashes.

Nowhere is this more evident than on ‘Photographs As Memories’, the duo’s debut album, where on some tracks you will hear brashly experimental overtones undercut by wailing organs (‘Seven Years’, ‘Knives Replace Air’), and on others meandering, pretty synthesiser patterns pockmarked by the sharp bursts of Bates’ caterwauling vocals (‘Speech Rapid Fire’, ‘No Noise’).

There is a rawness and brutality to the proceedings, and as a result ‘Photographs As Memories’ is not the most accessible of albums – although considering every track was recorded in one take with no overdubs, this is hardly a surprise.

What is surprising though, is just how many examples of unbridled beauty there are. Slivers of brittle splendour are waiting to be found if you allow the untamed raggedness of the rest of the album to engulf you. ‘Fixation’ provides one such moment, with Becker’s Wasp synth niftily fizzling away throughout, as does ‘From A To B’, which is all gloomy charm.

Interestingly, the name Eyeless In Gaza is taken from the title of a 1936 Aldous Huxley novel, notable for the fact that its chapters do not appear in chronological order. Sometimes this is what listening to ‘Photographs As Memories’ feels like – as if someone has taken the album and given it a vicious shake, just to see what the finished product will sound like.

Somehow this approach worked, and indeed it continued to work on a further five Eyeless In Gaza long-players released before the duo went on hiatus in 1987. By 1993 they were recording again, although this time around their music was distinctly gentler and more tranquil – the kind you might associate with a stroll through the quaint streets of a market town. Nuneaton, perhaps?

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