Cocteau Twins

The music of Scottish duo Robin Guthrie and Elizabeth Fraser - later expanding a trio by Simon Raymonde - virtually defines the term ambient pop. Regarded as the house band during their lengthy residency at the eclectic British label 4AD in the 80's and 90's, The Cocteau Twins’ blissful, enigmatic mood music remains utterly distinctive and very special.

artist:
Cocteau Twins

country of origin:
UK

style(s):
Ambient pop, ambient rock, shoegaze

decades active:
80's - 90's

essential releases:

  • The Pink Opaque (1986, 4AD)
  • Victorialand (1986, 4AD)
  • Moon and The Melodies [with Harold Budd] (1986, 4AD)
  • Blue Bell Knoll (1988, 4AD)

Reviewed by Mike G

The music of Scottish duo Robin Guthrie and Elizabeth Fraser - later expanding to a trio with Simon Raymonde - virtually defines the term ambient pop. Regarded as the house band during their lengthy residency at the eclectic British label 4AD in the 80's and 90's, The Cocteau Twins’ blissful, enigmatic mood music remains utterly distinctive and very special.

These four albums all date from the band's 80's heyday. After that time the rate of new album releases slowed down - stopping altogether by the end of the 90's - and there was little further creative development of their sound.

The compilation The Pink Opaque (1986) is a good summary of the group’s earliest work and an excellent introduction to the band. While many tracks have a recognizable song structure, this is far from conventional pop. The Cocteau’s fuzzy, ethereal swirls of synth and guitar, the unhurried rhythms and Fraser’s quite extraordinary singing make for music that’s unmistakably the group’s own. Fraser’s multi-tracked vocals climb, dive and soar effortlessly, sounding like some mutant cross between Enya and Kate Bush. It doesn’t matter that her lyrics are often impossible to make out, or that her song titles are so insistently bizarre; the Cocteau’s rich sonic bath is reward enough.

The band’s distinctive sound matures on the peak recordings Victorialand (1986) and Blue Bell Knoll (1988). “Lazy Calm” from Victorialand is the Cocteau’s brand of instrumental sound at its most rapturous, while the band’s peculiar pop sensibilities reach an apex on “Whales Tales” and, from the latter album, “The Itchy Glowbo Blow”. The Moon And The Melodies (1986) is a collaboration with Californian ambient pianist Harold Budd, an odd but inspired meeting of the Cocteau’s ethereal sound with Budd’s wistful, lyrical piano and keyboards.

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