(2020 - self release - UK)
Bare bones exposure! A pilgrimage of songs from multi-talented artist and wife of Martyn Bates (Eyeless In Gaza), this collection of compositions should be ethically issued to all inhabitants of the sad earth at this time. Of course most may feel it is too late, but not so fast. Elizabeth S. (the S. is the initial for her maiden name) Bates has a glass half full view verses one 50% empty, and a warm invitation to inspire hope and goodness to the human race instead of grief. Her breadth of work extends from an almost mournful reminiscence, ethereal portraits, and symbolic aural illustrations. With fishhook deep in traditional British folk and a float on modern electronic treatments, floral scents of smile, this in-depth collection is a beacon on dark and stormy seas.
Fourteen tracks of intimate diary, conversation, forethought and retrospective, all laid down for the world to admire, educate themselves, or at least absorb in some sordid way. This verses silence is a choice only total fools would ignore. If the opening cut 'The Carter Girl' does not put a choke hold on your soul and melt your heart into a beautiful bliss, then turn away and run as fast and far as you can - and consider yourself lost. The song is based on Elizabeth's mother, who sang opera and also loved such acts as The Rolling Stones. Piano and melodica are utilized harkening back to when Elizabeth was in her preteens (10 years old) recording her mother's voice on a reel to reel while mum was still coherent, before the theft of Alzheimer's came to call altogether. In fact much of the material is written for her mother, yet some tunes like 'Weathered Life' is about her cousin who struggled dealing with his sexuality. A precious piece using melodica, dulcimer, banjo, and of course voice. 'No Rain' uses a sample from EIG's 'John Of Patmos' (from their 'Photographs As Memories' album). 'To' (track #7) was done on a 6 year old cell phone but you would never know it.
If there is a counterpart to Martyn Bates and a hybrid of Dolly Collins, June Tabor, Laurie Anderson, and Kate Westbrook, then it would absolutely be Elizabeth S. There is an ease which she can gently move from tenderness to abstract, and stay firmly rooted in a sparse arrangement. She and her older brother once played clubs performing Pentangle style music so the folk roots were spawned very early in her life. This solo album is so real and thoroughly to the bone soulful (if you understand the word soulful being more than rhythm and blues). She did it all under her own terms, time, methods and machines. Absent from any unnecessary pressures or outside influences, this woman brought recordings from 2016 thru 2020 to make a very special and unforgettable releases. Not without abruption, on 'Misborn' (track #8) she uses guitar, banjo, and a wind-up doorbell treated with effects from Final Cut Pro. It has a similar wake up call that Eyeless In Gaza often uses among sombre heavenly pieces to jolt you from that comfort, but for only briefly. The following track (the title song 'Gather Love') is with treated violin, a celestial banjo and floating vocals. 'T. City Waltz' was done with Paul Le Hat, and is lush although does contain a happy party feel with a 3/4 waltz rhythm (as the title suggests), and in the end leaves you in a dream. Both that and 'Compass' (track #11) are about her love for particular cities or countries. The latter being about Greece.
'Wanderlove' (track #12) is from 2019 and is a Mason Williams song she recorded with Alan Trench, who also performs drone on it. Then comes a mother of pearl called 'The Devil's Nine Questions/Karyae' featuring Alan Trench, his wife R. Loftiss, and Martyn Bates on backing vocals, a powerful haunting and inescapable piece of art for the ears and soul. It is the longest piece on the album at 7:34 minutes. The atmosphere is unearthly and more than gorgeous. The end song is 'Baia/Karyae' which is a cover of a Edmundo Ros composition and a favorite of Elizabeth's who feels she could never do it justice, but loved trying here. The 'Karyae' is revisited with R. Loftiss again on backing vocals. 'Gather Love' is a moving, pure with human spirit, that of integrity, carrying a forgiveness, a certain softness, and what feels like a grand epitaph. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
©Reviewed by Lee Henderson 5 - 19 - 2020