M.J. Harris* • Martyn Bates ‎– Murder Ballads (Passages)

Musica Maxima Magnetica ‎– eee 36
CD, Album


1 The Bramble Briar 13:28
2 The Cruel Mother 11:29
3 The Banks Of Fordie 13:10
4 The Murder Of Maria Marten 17:29

Companies, etc.



Total time: 55:38

Recorded & mixed at The Box, July 96.

With thanks also to Peter Becker at A-Scale.

Illustrations taken from books 'Jump To Glory Jane', 'Homestead Westward In The Blue Mountains', 'The Passionate Puppets'.

Barcode and Other Identifiers

  • Barcode (Text): 8 020417 103622
  • Barcode (Reader): 8020417103622
  • Matrix / Runout (Variants 1, 2): A0100202106-0101 13 A0 DADC AUSTRIA
  • Mastering SID Code (Variants 1, 2): IFPI L553
  • Mould SID Code (Variant 1): IFPI 94B3
  • Mould SID Code (Variant 2): IFPI 94Z2



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May 22, 2012
Second chapter in the "Murder Ballads" series - more dark, rolling tones & chillingly dream-state voices tell four tales of cruelty. A series much lauded & deservedly so.
MARTYN has searched around to find a second collection of tales to chill the blood. Although the two artists are credited with 'compositions', I believe these are actually old folk songs, with the fourth piece more commonly known as "The Murder In The Red Barn" and dating back to pre-Jack The Ripper times, when it was then considered to be a crime worthy of portraying in song and even a play (check out the old black and white film starring TODD SLAUGHTER - it kinda romanticises Maria Marten more than history considers she deserves, but is worth seeking out if you like these tales).

MICK has created a dark screen against which the voice is set, slow, soporific, bad dream driftworks which make a perfect mood for the cold stories to unfold against. As with his LULL project, this is deep, muted and less to do with recognizable 'music' than of a feeling, a mood.

The backing soundtrack on this is so far up that you need full volume to discern the words. The original demo used this as a carpet over which MARTYN's words crept, and seemed to have a much more powerful effect. Now the soundtrack is a high wall of darkness, over which the voice stands tiptoe to be discerned. I'm not criticising this - this album has been lauded enough for it to be right, but then there can be two conflicting opinions, both correct. I guess it's the difference between two films - say the brooding depression of "10 Rillington Place" as the demo, and "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" as the album. Both very scary films - both effective - but with a distinctly different approach to the horrors they portray.

But all said, this is still a chilling and fairly unique listening experience. Buy the box set, if you can find it - and "The Bloody Gardner", that elusive 13th track. It'll be money well spent.

Originally reviewed for Soft Watch.