as of the past month, that has changed dramatically. i listen to the twins morning, noon, and night. every day. i have not been this taken by a band and their entire output of work for as long as i can remember.
|Know Who You Are At Every Age|
when i get high, which isn't THAT often, i love to listen to music. and when i listen to music, i almost always choose something i am not that familiar with but am interested in getting to know. i chose Cocteau Twins - Four-Calendar Café (1993), an album i had never listened to in its entirety, despite absolutely loving the final track "Pur."
well, being in that state of mind causes me to travel deeper into the music than i ever would normally. i usually lay in bed frozen in place, with absolutely nothing in my head except for these heavenly sounds. i am transported not only out of my daily life but into the very fabric of their music. and with the twins being such a multifaceted and unendingly intricate band, their music allows for endless journeys into the layers and layers of beauty with which they construct their songs. if this sounds a little wild, it IS!
so let me try to explain.
cocteau twins were so incredibly ahead of their time it is not even funny. their first album, Garlands (1982), is possibly their most dissonant and murky with mechanical drums and guitar timbres and harmonies that are harsh, shrill, sometimes even ugly. the melodies are very different than what i am used to in their other music, often going to very unexpected places...
liz fraser, a woman whose voice cannot be defined by words alone, sounds more raw and unpolished than she does in their later albums, contributing to a very rough-around-the-edges atmosphere. think industrial, dark, or any number of other adjectives similar to these. knowing this, i once would avoid listening to this album because i was more attracted to the lush and exotic sounds of their later work, but seeing as i just went through a HUGE joy division phase i decided that this music is actually incredibly valuable and wonderful to listen to. i now love how dark it is, it shows a completely different side of their musical personality.
so here is my favorite track from the album, "The Hollow Men," which i feel sums up the overall sound of Garlands perfectly.
HEAD OVER HEELS (1983). this is an album without parallel. i can honestly say it is one of the most powerful fucking things i have ever heard. from the very first kick of the drums, you can hear echoes all around as if you were inside an extremely high-ceilinged cathedral with these musical gods. the atmosphere they create with the exaggerated reverb on both the drums and her voice, which is often doubled and tripled upon itself to add even more thickness of sound, is utterly stunning.
one thing i keep saying to myself as i listen to them is that they seemed to have understood pure musical beauty on a level i have never heard manifested anywhere else or by anyone else. it's like every note just builds and builds on the beauty of the one previous, every song, every album even... that is why i am so overjoyed that they have so MANY albums and each with completely different aesthetics (although still adhering to their one unique and inimitable sound), it's like i could spend a lifetime exploring. a worthwhile endeavor? i think so.
to give you a preview of this album, here is the monumental closing track "Musette and Drums." the GUITARS are SO FUCKING FULL AND AMAZING. it's like the music is alive and breathing with me.
i think i must show you the song "Five Ten Fiftyfold" as well. there is just something about this song that give me extreme chills, but in the amazing way. the ceilings of the cathedral are super high in this one, because to me the echo factor is much greater than in the other tracks, lending it such a breadth of space and atmosphere that it is really astounding to listen to. there is even a highly reverberated saxophone, which makes the track sound almost darkjazz-esque, or spacejazz, like it came straight out of the soundtrack to the movie Blade Runner.
TREASURE (1984). this album is nothing less than a treasure to behold. every single song is gorgeous, and liz fraser's voice is constantly spiraling in and out of itself, building, exploring, going beyond all bounds. the sound of the tracks is cold and icy, but beautiful, like you are entering a world of sound never heard before. it is not an easy task to describe, but here is (one of) my favorite track(s) on the album, "Persephone."
Victorialand (1986). it begins with the electric swoosh of a shooting star, and reveals an album soft to the touch, as soft as a kitten. there are a lot of major seventh chords, an essential element of Cocteau Twins' music that is used in nearly every song but somehow it never seems like they overdo it.
here is my favorite track, "How To Bring a Blush to the Snow." a lot of the time the lyrics are comprised of random sounds or unintelligible nonsense words.
Blue-Bell Knoll (1988). this album is one of my favorites! it is so happy, bright, and cheery. a great album to listen to in spring time, as the world opens up to sunlight and full blooming flowers and plants. her vocals in "Athel-Brose" have made me feel that tinge of pressure in the back of my throat/nose/eyes, as if i was about to cry... she just sounds so full of joy, bliss, nirvana.
HEAVEN OR LAS VEGAS (1990). this is definitely their most cohesive album. when i recommend a single album to anyone for the first time it is either this or Treasure. i can't even explain how beautiful this album is. the song titles always seemed to me very perfect descriptions of the sounds they created in that particular song, like this one: "Cherry-Coloured Funk." it just sounds like the color of a cherry, somehow. this is usually the favorite album, but i can't speak for everyone.
Four-Calendar Café (1993). okay, so this is my favorite album of theirs at the moment. i am so in love with it, i can't even explain in mere words. i keep saying that, but I CAN'T! my favorite tracks are "Know Who You Are At Every Age," "My Truth," "Summerhead," and "Pur."
i'm just going to show you "Summerhead" because i think that would have to be my all-time favorite twins song at this exact moment in time.
i have only listed their solo full-length albums (excluding Milk & Kisses/1996 which i still have not gotten around to), but they have quite a lot of extraneous releases such as EPs and compliations and collaborations that are all also full of wonderful music. the best place to find all of these and the information on them is here.
a couple other songs that i very much love ~
"It's All But an Ark Lark" from Lullabies EP (1982)
just listen to this at the highest volume possible, my god.
"Pink Orange Red" from Tiny Dynamine EP (1985)
this is the first CT song i showed to my sister and it converted her. :3
another time when the track title seems to perfectly describe the aural world of the song.
"Love's Easy Tears" from Love's Easy Tears EP (1986)
this is such a joyful thing. it sounds like liz is rejoicing with her voice, but in what, i am not sure. she sounds so playful and fun! it was such a pleasure to hear this song, with its manipulations of her voice that sound the most lovely form of ghostly.
i think i have gone to the fullest capacity possible right now in trying to convey my love for them, but i promise you, it is a love that is here to stay. i hope you have enjoyed this post, learned some things about one of the greatest bands of all time, and maybe even heard some music that has spoken to you or moved you in some way...
i think i love them so much because they continuously experimented with sound. i am a huge fan of manipulating harmonies to their greatest potential, which is something you often hear in jazz or in 19th-century expressionist/romantic music, but i am also a huge fan of powerful independent music-making that is selfish and searches for sound and art at any cost. i can hear that in liz fraser's voice and in the musical production by robin guthrie (guitarist). they stop at nothing to achieve what they do, the go to the furthest places in music and grasp at what there is to be held. they are full of imagination, too, child-like and human. it is very inspiring to hear her sing, and i'm sure you can agree there is nothing like it in the whole world.