Monday, 11 January 2021

Cocteau Twins "Head Over Heels" (1983)

 With the departure of bassist Will Heggie, the now duo find their calling on Head Over Heels, their sophomore effort where the starts align and the magic blossoms. Its opening track When Mama Was Moth is unassuming, a slow dreary build up, nudged along by the booming echo of a drum strike as weary guitars drone under the sparkling astral melody that inspires intrigue. It takes all but twenty seconds on the following Five Ten Fiftyfold for the Ethereal beauty to emerge. Fraser plunges her voice into a spirited swoon, riding the curtails of lavish reverberation. The distant noir saxophone a perfect compliment in this gorgeous moment.

The mood is brighter, an uplift and warmth courses through these songs, arrangement shifts, guitar chords and moving the key upwards steer these esoteric and ethereal sounds to the light. The dreary, gothic darkness is still present in the abstract layers of dense guitar noise. The bass guitar shimmers underneath with a brightly punctuated chorus effect. The drum machine paces with pounds minimal groove, plunged in extravagant echos that add greatly to the muddy atmosphere.

Fraser finds herself with a greater presence in the mix. The timing often brings her in at moments of power to usher in these warm shifts of tone. Although yet to go fully wordless, her singing emphasizes feeling and emotion with many unconventional annunciations of words. The lyric sheet brings clarity but the mystery of how her voice says something different is so alluring. Words take on new meaning, all said as if looking for another, swinging from her swoon they hypnotize.

Its right inline with Guthrie's evolution. His ambiguous guitar noise clambers into new territory where craft and measure balance more obvious chords, arpeggios and string sections with the denser fog of ambiguity. It poises the music in the precarious place where convention and mystery dance in the moonlight. Its overall tone is dark, esoteric and spooky yet consistently blushes with a dazzling beauty.

Although I thought I had not ventured to this record before, a couple of tracks startled me as to how I knew them so well, yet the rest was a complete mystery! My guess Is the random videos from Youtube autoplay when I first discovered the Cocteau Twins, many years ago. Amazing how well the particulars of these songs have stuck. The love I had for this band starts here. Its a technically flawed flourish of creativity and inspiration. Big gatherings of echo crowd some moments and it has tarnishes all over. I'm loving this in a way where I know it will just keep giving and I think these amateurish growing pains are an amazing part of the experience.

 Rating: 8/10