I confess I've never really heard Cocteau Twins
until recently, I'm just discovering Treasure
. I really like it a lot, and what strikes me is that it's much more rhythmically complex than I would've expected from something of this genre. The vocal phrases are not your standard single-melody eight-note stuff. (There are even a few triplets in there, which is pretty exciting for music geeks such as myself.) This helps to keep the songs interesting as they march on into endless repetition. I know some people love hypnotic atmosphere for its own sake, but I usually find active, varied music more compelling.
Some of the material on this album actually reminds me a bit of Gentle Giant
(and things that I've tried to do in my own music) in the way the phrases flow, and how the counter-melodies and counter-rhythms in the vocals overlap and cluster together at points. Compare the Twin's "Pandora" to "Empty City" from Interview
- specifically the vocal part that starts just under a minute in. Obviously the Giant song is more complex, but there are definitely common links in the main verse sections. In addition to the vocals, they both feature a lovely lilting 6/8, very mellow and atmospheric, driven by clean guitar textures. And they both make effective use of sparser instrumental sections to contrast and set the stage for the busier vocal counterpoint.
Other songs that use these techniques similarly are Twin's "Ivo" and Giant's "No God's a Man" from The Power And The Glory
, a dear favorite of mine.
Another thing: having read a little bit about the history of the Cocteau Twins and Elizabeth Fraser's famous gibberish lyrics, along with being ethereal and mystical I imagine she was shaping the syllables to facilitate the rhythmic stretching and stuttering of the melodies, which has the potential to be very awkward to perform if the syllables don't fall in the right place. Maybe she just couldn't be bothered to find pre-existing words that fit the music (which was probably written prior to lyrics, or most likely simultaneously). This reminds me of Jon Anderson
, who has always said he wrote lyrics for the music, not for the meaning of the words themselves. One wonders if he would've been better off going for gibberish syllables instead of coming up with cryptic phrases like:
Gold stainless nail
Torn through the distance of man
As they regard the summit.
Then again, that would've deprived many acidheads their joyful hours of psuedo-intellectual analysis and perceived spiritual validation.
Anyway, Anderson and Fraser are both very elfin.