#318 Cocteau Twins – Heaven or Las Vegas

I’m not a huge Cocteau Twins fan, which is probably an error. That’s not to say I don’t like them, I like this very much, but I don’t know much of their output beyond this classic album.

I first heard the Cocteau Twins because their Pitch The Baby track was included in a sampler cassette compilation that was free with Select Magazine (remember that?) I remember listening to it and being transfixed by this entirely unique world of sound they’d produced. (This 4AD/Mute artist sampler was to prove most significant for me since it also included a Nick Cave track – Foi Na Cruz – which kicked off a deep and long-lasting love affair with his music.)

The instrumentation here is very simple, but very effective, and sounding unlike anything else around at the time. Shimmering waves of guitar chords, a gentle effective drum beat (in particular the lovely lightness of the cymbal on Frou-Frou Foxes), layers of supporting keyboard chords, and some lovely sonorous bass lines (especially on Pitch the Baby). Interweaved amongst all that, acting very much as an ‘instrument’ itself, is Elizabeth Fraser’s ethereal and often unintelligible vocals. There are many highlights, and definitely no dud tracks: Iceblink Luck is almost all in a recognisable language and I Wear Your Ring has some marvellously effective multi-tracking of Fraser’s voice, layering lines one over the other like swirling birds in a shimmering hazy sky.

They are masters, nay magicians, of the less is more principle, and having rediscovered them again from listening to this long-unheard album of theirs, I shall certainly explore further forthwith, particularly the earlier collaboration they did with Harold Budd.

Best Bits: The heart-achingly beautiful sound of Fraser singing, ‘I only want to love you’ on Pitch the Baby – the cry of a mother’s love, rising above all else
Genre: Ambient Indie Pop
Like This, Try This: Drifting through multi-coloured candyfloss clouds with the strange sounds of an untuned radio playing in the distance

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