Photographer: Dominique Goblet.
Conceived and released as a complement to Eyeless in Gaza's Plague of Years compilation, Your Jewled Footsteps focuses on Martyn Bates' solo and other collaborative work over the years, providing a handy one-disc overview of an extensive discography. Like his more well-known duo work, Bates has released material on a slew of different labels over time, making this collection a good if inevitably limited take on a vast, underrated musical archive. Bates' tender but tense singing has the same gentle impact here as with Eyeless in Gaza, but the settings range from the comparatively familiar -- much of the straight-up solo work is not far removed from Eyeless in general -- to the contextually adventurous and surprising. Songs like the brief "The God on the Tree" and the chaotic 1979-era snippet from "Dissonance" help to emphasize his instrumental gifts, while various duets, most especially the mesmerizing dark ambience of "The Cruel Mother," done with Scorn/Lull main man Mick Harris, ghostly vocals floating over huge depths of sound, showcase other areas of work. The sequencing is part of the joy of the compilation -- sticking to no chronological setting, it flows readily across years and styles, showing how well Bates' voice has held up over time. Hearing the shifts from the (generally) more electronic earlier years to the acoustic-based, hushed folk turns of more recent times in this fashion establishes not only surprising continuities but creates a lush atmosphere that demonstrates his creative impulses to good effect. No otherwise unavailable or unreleased songs are featured on Your Jewled Footsteps, so hardcore fans can make their own equivalents as they wish, but for others this is a welcome look into a defiantly creative cycle of work. ~ Ned Raggett