Friday, 22 January 2021

Cocteau Twins "Treasure" (1984)

When embarking on this newest musical journey with the Cocteau Twins, it is this record I was itching to write about. Discovering them back in 2011, Treasure was the album to lure me in and I have adored it too this day. Admittedly it doesn't get much rotation anymore but spinning it up again has been a pleasure and with critical ears I love how the stiff fidelity of its drum machine and awkward production were details I never heard before. These songs are so gorgeous and engulfing, that the magic simply glosses over its flaws. As I've commented before though, its aesthetic ruggedness very much works to enrich the slightly esoteric and ethereal vibes.

Stepping away from their Post-Punk roots and into Dream Pop territory, Guthrie's layered guitar experimentation finds refined glory in pivoting to acoustic guitars. Golden plucked strings lavished in reverbs often feature alongside other sparkling instruments that put emphasis on dreamy tones and a warm melodic rises. There are occasional uses of guitar distortion and its tone can sway into the shadows with these ten songs forging a wonderful variety for peering into peculiar places. Its obvious though, much of its instrumental magic is birthed from the expansion of instruments, used subtly in the swells of ethereal sound that gush forth. They play out the colored tuneful melodies the likes of Garlands before it once lacked.

Its all held in place by this clanky drum machine. Rigid and stiff in timing and tone, its repetitive strikes are often soaked in reverb, rattling off with forced punchy grooves that penetrate with a contrasted composure to everything else around it. Somehow, mysteriously, it just works so well. Fraiser's voice is another vector in the chemistry. These three components feel so distant from one another at times, yet together its a wondrous mix. I must say though, it comes in temperaments. The album jumps all over the place from track to track. Persephone may be the biggest example of what I've just described and yet with the following song Pandora it flips to its most cohesive and in tune composition. Notably, two of my favorite tracks as well.

Best of all, Fraiser comes completely into her own on this one. I was always under the impression her performance was entirely wordless and I loved putting my own words into her cryptic singing. Reading online lyric sheets does have me wondering. If they are true then its stunning how she pronounces words with such a mystic overcast. If not, its still just as magic but I prefer the later. The inflections and places she carries her voice too with vibratos and what not is endlessly joyous. Sailing high to low and dancing on her way. Every word, or lack of, just oozes with an endearing quality which never fails to cast a spell. Its some of the best vocal delivery you'll ever hear.

 Treasure is a milestone record for the group, an ascension to the spectacular. Its artistic, expressive, magical and stunningly mysterious. Knowing these songs so well, Guthrie's swell of ambiguous sound still spark the imagination. Fraisers veiled voicings always an indulgence. Its only shortcomings are in execution. Some amateurish swells of bass noise occasionally gather in the mix and some of its songs tend to end without direction. Sudden wind downs and lack of conclusion do hinder the odd song but otherwise its a classic, one anyone curious should give a go.

Rating: 9.5/10