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Cocteau Twins
Blue Bell Knoll / Heaven or Las Vegas

Cocteau Twins — Blue Bell Knoll / Heaven or Las Vegas (Remastered 2014)

 Cocteau Twins — Blue Bell Knoll / Heaven or Las Vegas 
Ξ   Často napodobováni, nikdo nikdy potom to však už nezlepšil. Vliv Cocteau Twins na indie hudební scénu v posledních třech desetiletích je značný, a Blue Bell Knoll je ukázkovým příkladem, proč tolik umělců, od Sigur Ros a My Bloody Valentine, přes Stinu Nordenstam až po Tori Amos, z nich čerpali inspiraci. Od začátku až do konce je to brilantní dílo, které prosvítá s grácií a emocemi; zvoněním i truchlivými kytarami.
Ξ   Hudební analýzy stranou: Blue Bell Knoll je prostě bohatý, krásný, likvidační záznam — expresivní a ambiciózní, ale nikdy ne neproniknutelný nebo trapný. Pokud jste již obdivovatel Cocteau Twins, je to nahrávka, kterou pravděpodobně již vlastníte — opravdu ji máte ve své polici na dosah ruky, poctivě a regulérně zakoupenou. Pokud je pro Vás nová, nevadí. Ale ... pusťte se do práce. Jen nečekejte, že se objeví něco podobného v dohledné době.
Location: UK
Album Blue Bell Knoll release: 19 September 1988
Recorded: September Sound, Twickenham, England
Album Heaven or Las Vegas released: 17 September 1990
Recorded: September Sound, Twickenham, England
Record Label: 4AD
Duration:     35:17 + 37:42 => 72:59
Tracks:
01. "Blue Bell Knoll"      3:24
02. "Athol–Brose"      2:59
03. "Carolyn's Fingers"      3:08
04. "For Phoebe Still a Baby"      3:16
05. "The Itchy Glowbo Blow"      3:21
06. "Cico Buff"      3:49
07. "Suckling the Mender"      3:35
08. "Spooning Good Singing Gum"      3:52
09. "A Kissed Out Red Floatboat"      4:10
10. "Ella Megalast Burls Forever"      3:39
Personnel:
Ξ   Elizabeth Fraser — vocals
Ξ   Robin Guthrie — guitar
Ξ   Simon Raymonde — bass guitar
♦   All songs written and composed by Elizabeth Fraser, Robin Guthrie, and Simon Raymonde.
Description:
Ξ   Blue Bell Knoll (1988) is the fifth album by Scottish band Cocteau Twins.
Ξ   This was the first LP by the Twins to receive major–label distribution in the USA, as it was originally licensed by Capitol Records from 4AD for North American release. Ξ   After a period of being out of print while 4AD reclaimed the American distribution rights for their back catalog, this (along with much of the band's 4AD material) was remastered by Robin Guthrie and re–issued in 2003. The album shares its name with a peak in southern Utah, Bluebell Knoll.               
Heaven or Las Vegas
♦   All songs written by Cocteau Twins.
01. "Cherry–Coloured Funk"    – 3:12
02. "Pitch the Baby"    – 3:14
03. "Iceblink Luck"    – 3:18
04. "Fifty–Fifty Clown"    – 3:10
05. "Heaven or Las Vegas"    – 4:58
06. "I Wear Your Ring"    – 3:29
07. "Fotzepolitic"    – 3:30
08. "Wolf in the Breast"    – 3:31
09. "Road, River and Rail"    – 3:21
10. "Frou–Frou Foxes in Midsummer Fires"    – 5:38
Personnel:
Ξ   Elizabeth Fraser — vocals
Ξ   Robin Guthrie — guitar
Ξ   Simon Raymonde — bass
Ξ   Andy Rumball — photography
Ξ   Paul West — sleeve design
Description:
Ξ   Heaven or Las Vegas is the sixth album by Scottish rock group Cocteau Twins, their last for the music label 4AD. In terms of chart positions, it is the most successful Cocteau Twins album, reaching number seven in the UK.
Ξ   Despite 4AD president Ivo Watts–Russell proclaiming it one of the best — ever releases on his label, he released the group from their contract at the end of 1990 because his relationship with the band had soured.
REVIEW
By GEN WILLIAMS, December 5th, 2002;  Score: 10
Ξ   Often imitated, never bettered, the Cocteau Twins' influence on the indie music scene over the past two decades is considerable, and Blue Bell Knoll is a faultless example of why so many artists, from Sigur Ros and My Bloody Valentine to Stina Nordenstam and Tori Amos have drawn inspiration from it.
Ξ   From start to finish, it's a record that gleams with grace and emotion; chiming, mournful guitars and layered tapestry of sounds evoke a vast array of imagery, and five minutes into the album you're no longer listening to Robert Smith of The Cure's favourite band, you're listening to soaring gulls, golden skies and incomprehensible stratospheric heights, all contained beneath the arc of your own imagination.
Ξ   Taking centre–stage are Liz Fraser's pealing vocals — calling to mind a less shrill Kate Bush, her voice wraps itself around unintelligible vowel sounds in what sounds like a mixture of French, Latin, Celtic and Arabic [I'm assured it is actually English most of the time but...who knows?] — but does it really matter what she's saying? Ξ   This record, and indeed most of the Cocteau Twins' work, celebrates sound, melody, atmosphere; Fraser's vocals, while existing in the foreground of the record, are used less as a lyrical outlet than as another instrument, ebbing and flowing, darting between chorus crescendoes and shimmering, mirror–shiny sonic echoes.
Ξ   Musical analysis aside though, Blue Bell Knoll is simply a rich, beautiful, liquid record — expressive and ambitious yet never impenetrable or awkward. If you're a Cocteau Twins fan, this is a record you probably already own — indeed, it probably gets pulled off your record shelves on a regular basis. If you're new to them, however... dive on in. Just don't expect to emerge anytime soon. :: http://drownedinsound.com/
Lyrics: http://alwaysontherun.net/cocteau.htm#blue
REVIEW
By Stephen Deusner; July 16, 2014;  Score: 8.3
Ξ   It’s impossible to make out most of the lyrics on the title track to the Cocteau Twins’ 1990 album, Heaven or Las Vegas. Over Robin Guthrie’s shimmery, shivery guitar strum, singer Elizabeth Fraser bends her notes into mysterious shapes. She coos and squawks, mews and barks, murmurs and wails, as though singing in a new language. One minute she sounds like an opera singer, the next like a mother baby–talking to her new daughter.
Ξ   The effect can be dizzying, and the illegibility of her performance only makes it more, not less, human. Yet, a few words do stand out, primarily that title phrase: “Heaven or Las Vegas.” The Cocteau Twins’ music has always sounded otherworldly, and their many fans would certainly describe it — and rightly so — as heavenly.
Ξ   But Las Vegas? It stands out as an odd, jarring reference. Their fantastical music would seem to brook nothing quite so earthly, so garish, so thisworldly as Sin City, which hauls unlikely baggage into “Heaven or Las Vegas”: gambling, corruption, tacky tourism, and cheesy crooning. But if we forget everything we know about the city and reduce Las Vegas to its atomic elements — millions upon billions of lights — perhaps we might see heaven in the radiance. This is essentially how the Cocteau Twins’ music works: Fraser’s voice doesn’t behave the way a pop singer’s voice typically behaves, nor does Guthrie’s guitar deliver the usual melody or rhythm. Along with bass player/keyboardist Simon Raymonde, whose contributions shouldn’t be discounted, they found new ways to use old instruments in the 1980s, in the process devising a unique and wholly beguiling sound. If punk had chased beauty instead of glorious ugliness, if goth had emphasized light rather than fetishize darkness, those movements might have sounded like the Cocteau Twins, who had contemporaries but no real peers. Somehow, there is immense aggression and subversion in the sheer loveliness of this music, which makes it more than just art for art’s sake.
Ξ   Most people in America, however, didn’t know any of this in the 1980s, as the decade was almost over before the band officially released any music in the States. Ξ   Ever since Guthrie and Fraser had shown up on 4AD Records’ doorstep like orphaned goths in 1982, the Scots quickly developed both a sound and an audience in the UK, culminating in the 1984 album Treasure, which was the first to truly capture the wildness of Fraser’s vocals and Guthrie’s ambitiously skewed arrangements. By the late ’80s, they were successful enough to play increasingly cavernous London venues, to build their own 24–track studio, to rent practice space in Pete Townshend’s building. There was also friction between Fraser and Guthrie, who had been a couple throughout the life of the Cocteau Twins. Due to the pressure of the business and especially to Guthrie’s rampant drug abuse, their marriage was fraying. But they still made beautiful music together, and they signed a deal with Capitol Records to distribute their fifth album, 1988’s Blue Bell Knoll, in America.
Ξ   That album is one of two getting a deluxe vinyl reissue this week via 4AD. It’s certainly a pivotal album in their career, but not necessarily one of their best. Did the Cocteau Twins tame some of their wilder elements for American audiences? Or did the prospect of reaching a whole new continent of ears even enter their minds when they recorded these songs? Blue Bell Knoll sounds minimalist, workmanlike at times, never quite matching the rapturous invention of Treasure. It’s their airiest, cottoniest album, with an enticing use of space on the production but with hooks that sound oddly restrained. As a result, it can sound as monochromatic as its album cover.
Ξ   On the other hand, its general dismissal by critics and fans as a lesser Cocteau Twins album may have less to do with the album itself and more to do with the fact that it is bookended by better and more ecstatically creative works. There are moments of disarming beauty on Blue Bell Knoll—the melting keyboards on “Cico Buff”, the lush vocal layering of “Athol-Brose”, the shooting–stars opening of “A Kissed Out Red Floatboat”, Raymonde’s syncopated bass trudge of “The Itchy Glowblo Blow”, the whatever that is at the end of “Spooning Good Singing Gum” (I think it might be a herd of lovelorn goats playing saxophones). But the standout is “Carolyn’s Fingers”, which would become the Cocteau Twins’ first American single. The band never utilized its rhythm section to better effect: Against Guthrie’s crisp guitar line, that churning momentum pushes Fraser’s vocals to greater and greater heights, her unexpected swoops and eloquently rolled consonants creating a bewildering indie–pop aria.
Ξ   Even as the band soared commercially and creatively, personally they suffered. Between the release of Blue Bell Knoll and the recording of Heaven or Las Vegas, Fraser gave birth to the couple’s first child, a daughter, yet Guthrie remained deep in the throes of drug addiction, which made him paranoid and angry. Raymonde mourned the death of his father. Suddenly the stakes for the Cocteau Twins seemed impossibly high. “Fraser named the album Heaven or Las Vegas [as] a suggestion of music versus commerce, or perhaps a gamble, one last throw of the dice,” Martin Aston writes in Facing the Other Way: The Story of 4AD, implying that the band was close to imploding.
Ξ   Instead, they turned all that turmoil and uncertainty into the best album of their career. Heaven or Las Vegas explodes in Technicolor from the first melty guitar chords on “Cherry–Coloured Funk”. Every note sounds like a new and richer shade of indigo and scarlet and violet than the previous one, and it doesn’t fade until closer “Frou–Frou Foxes in Midsummer Fires” descends into silence. If Blue Bell Knoll is spare and ambient, Heaven is supersaturated: lush without being vulgar, luxuriant without being indulgent. Tellingly, some lyrics bubble up to the surface, often loaded with personal meaning: “cherry,” “perfection,” “burn this madhouse down.” On a song called “Pitch the Baby”, ostensibly written for — or at least sung to — the couple’s infant daughter, Fraser repeats, “I’m so happy to care for you, I only want to love you,” as a sweet lullaby. We may not always be able to understand her lyrics, but that doesn’t mean they’re not important. In fact, her lyrics would never be more vital or confessional than they are on Heaven or Las Vegas, which lends the music added emotional and conceptual heft.
Ξ   What’s particularly remarkable about the album is how compact it is: All but two of these 10 tracks clock in around three–and–a–half minutes, and the whole thing is over and done with in a mere 38 minutes. That succinctness may have something to do with Raymonde’s increasing role in the group. His bass playing, especially on “Pitch the Baby” and “Fotzepolitic”, not only adds to the texture and, yes, the groove of the music, but also gingerly anchors these songs: He prevents them from flying off into the ether, but never lets them grow rigid or staid. The result is an album that perfectly balances ambition with accessibility. Together, these two releases — which were their last for 4AD — present the Cocteau Twins as first and foremost a pop band, and pop rarely sounds as transformative and as transfixing as it does here. :: http://pitchfork.com/
B i o g r a p h y (by Jason Ankeny)
Ξ   A group whose distinctly ethereal and gossamer sound virtually defined the enigmatic image of the record label 4AD, the Cocteau Twins were founded in Grangemouth, Scotland, in 1979. Taking their name from an obscure song from fellow Scots Simple Minds, the Cocteaus were originally formed by guitarist Robin Guthrie and bassist Will Heggie and later rounded out by Guthrie’s girlfriend Elizabeth Fraser, an utterly unique performer whose swooping, operatic vocals relied less on any recognizable language than on the subjective sounds and textures of verbalized emotions. In 1982, the trio signed to 4AD, the arty British label then best known as the home of the Birthday Party, whose members helped the Cocteaus win a contract. Ξ   The group debuted with Garlands, which offered an embryonic taste of their rapidly developing, atmospheric sound, crafted around Guthrie’s creative use of distorted guitars, tape loops, and echo boxes and anchored in Heggie's rhythmic bass as well as an omnipresent Roland 808 drum machine. Shortly after the release of the Peppermint Pig EP, Heggie left the group, and Guthrie and Fraser cut 1983’s Head Over Heels as a duo; nonetheless, the album largely perfected the Cocteaus' gauzy formula, and established the foundation from which the group would continue to work for the duration of its career. In late 1983, ex–Drowning Craze bassist Simon Raymonde joined the band to record the EP The Spangle Maker; as time wore on, Raymonde became an increasingly essential component of the Cocteau Twins, gradually assuming an active role as a writer, arranger, and producer. With their lineup firmly solidified, they issued The Spangle Maker, followed by the LP Treasure, their most mature and consistent work yet. A burst of creativity followed, as the Twins issued three separate EPs — Aikea–Guinea, Tiny Dynamine, and Echoes in a Shallow Bay — in 1985, trailed a year later by the acoustic Victorialand album, the Love's Easy Tears EP and The Moon and the Melodies, a collaborative effort with minimalist composer Harold Budd. With 1988’s sophisticated Blue Bell Knoll, the trio signed an international contract with Capitol Records which greatly elevated their commercial visibility. After 1990’s Heaven or Las Vegas, the Cocteaus severed their long–standing relationship with 4AD; notably, the album also found Fraser’s vocals offering the occasional comprehensible turn of phrase, a trend continued on 1993's Four–Calendar Cafe. In 1995, they explored a pair of differing musical approaches on simultaneously released EPs: while Twinlights offered subtle acoustic sounds, Otherness tackled ambient grooves, remixed by Seefeel's Mark Clifford. 1996’s Milk & Kisses LP, on the other hand, marked a return to the band's archetypal style. The Cocteau Twins quietly disbanded while working on an uncompleted follow–up; the posthumous BBC Sessions appeared in 1999.
ELIZABETH FRASER
Born: August 29, 1963 in Grangemouth, Scotland.
Ξ   Liz is the vocalist and lyricist in Cocteau Twins, and co–founded the group in her hometown in 1981 with her long–time companion Robin Guthrie and their friend Will Heggie. At the time, she was all of 17 years–old, and had never really thought of herself as a singer. Robin and Will noticed her dancing at a club one night, and asked her to join their band.
Ξ   Her unique vocal stylings and mysterious, indecipherable lyrics have generated much debate over the years, but she has often been circumspect on the matter when asked about it.
Ξ   Now among the world’s most acclaimed singers, she parted ways professionally with Cocteau Twins in 1998 to pursue her solo ambitions. Liz has appeared as a guest–vocalist on numerous other recordings with other artists, has performed for film soundtracks, and was invited by Peter Gabriel to lend her spectacular voice to the UK’s “Milennium Dome Project” in 1999.
Ξ   Liz has two daughters — Lucy and Lily — and makes her home in Bristol, England with her partner, musician Damon Reece.
Fraser: http://www.elizabethfraser.com/
Website: http://www.cocteautwins.com/                     
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Cocteau Twins
Blue Bell Knoll / Heaven or Las Vegas

 

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