I’m just going to keep on pushing Martyn Bates until you’re sick of it, and then continue doing it. Although he’s surely not the only one deserving this unenviable status, he’s the first person I think of when I consider artists with severely underrated careers. Bates had been making music since the late seventies, most famously as half of Eyeless in Gaza, spanning genres from noise to pop, rock to ambient, and his staple influence: folk.
His latest album Unsung is in the latter category, though all of these except “Wait and See” are original songs by Bates. If anything, this album is stripped: the lion’s share of it is just Martyn and his guitar. It’s powerful singer/songwriter stuff from one of the most recognisable voices around, and there is a freshness in a lot of these songs that is remarkable given the ubiquity of the genre, as well as the fact that Bates has been making music for so long. That said, the strongest parallel is between this album and Bates’ solo albums around the year 1990, particularly the superb Letters to a Scattered Family. This new one is less bombastic, more subdued, and doesn’t immediately stand out when considered in the context of Bates’ œuvre.