|Once upon a time there was a decade called the 80s. And at the beginning of it lots of people made music in their bedrooms on basic recording equipment that had suddenly been available at affordable prices. To facilitate this the same people invented lots of independent labels to release their music on, sometimes on round vinyl, called records, more often on cassette tapes. These were often tucked into some kind of resealable bag along with booklets, leaflets, stickers etc and available at independent record shops or direct via mail order.
One such label was Tago Mago. They didn't seem to last long, and as far as I know nobody involved in the label made music, they just rleeased other people's for them. I still have two wonderful tapes of theirs, which each came with a big A4 booklet of pretty grim photocopied pages inside a glossy white card cover. They released one of the last This Heat offerings, with weird French composer Albert Marcouer on the other side of the tape; and they released another tape with jazz improviser Lol Coxhill on one side and the Midlands' finest, Eyeless in Gaza on t'other.
Twenty years later and Eyeless in Gaza's and Lol Coxhill's Tago Mago recordings have been reissued as Home Produce: Country Bizarre on NDN Records, whose slogan is ´mindblowing pieces of plastic for discerning music lovers'. You can't argue with that can you? What's interesting is that Eyeless in Gaza have chosen to remix various tracks, and make some new tracks by combining their music with Coxhill's. So the CD now contains 20 pieces of music, and is both a reissue and a revisitation...
Most of the music is fragile, echoing improvisation. Coxhill's saxophones swoop and soar in space, Eyeless mix location recordings with lo-fi experiment on glockenspiels, synths and suchlike; this is well before their attempts at being a pop band. The music drifts around the room and stands in the corner keeping you company; it's warm and friendly and doesn't bite. It's all a little bit vague and tentative, and I confess I prefer the shorter, original version of this release, but it's good to have it back again in pristine sound: my tape is starting to stretch.
NDN also have a 2001 release by Eyeless' Martyn Bates. Dance of Hours is a short sonorous CD of avant-folk. Bates voice is full and strong, his words and tunes intriguing and moving. I'm glad he's still making this music, he's an overlooked and under-rated composer and singer, somehow bridging the gap between singer-songwriter and more experimental music. He deserves to live happily ever after.
© 2003 Rupert Loydell