Though they’re missing a member, this almost feels like the Cocteau Twins at their purest or most essential.
The music is even more ethereal than on their other records, at least the ones that I’ve heard. People attribute this to the missing member and maybe that’s true, but they brought in a third musician so who knows. When there is only Fraser’s voice and Guthrie’s guitar, it’s certainly sparser than we’re used to but when there are overdubs the songs really do seem to float in another realm. I have accused early Cocteau Twins of sounding too much like Siouxsie and the Banshees at their absolute softest, minus any edge. But this record sounds like it came from an entirely different place and such a comparison feels utterly ridiculous.
I do think that this kind of music needs melodies to succeed, and this album has its share. I don’t listen to enough Cocteau Twins to know how strong the songs are compared to their best records, but there is one song here that reminds me way too much of Enya. It’s as if Enya figured out her shtick from listening to this album. That isn’t fair to Enya, as I’ve never heard Clannad, and it isn’t fair to Cocteau Twins, who are way weirder and cooler than Enya. But the point is that at least one song on here has that strong a melody.
(Of course, given it’s the Cocteau Twins, there’s no point in mentioning the lyrics.)
Because it’s mostly free of percussion and mostly just uses delay, it’s a record that sounds far less ’80s than their other music, too. That’s always a plus for me, notorious hater of ’80s production cliches that I am. It also helps the record sound a little more ethereal (if that’s even possible).
Honestly I think it’s the most distinct record they’ve made, which is saying something for a band that basically invented a genre.