Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Other Tuesday: This Mortal Coil, 'Song to the Siren'

This Mortal coil started life as the brainchild of 4AD Records founder Ivo Watts-Russell. A studio entity only, the group was something of a 4AD all-star unit, but evolved into a way for Watts-Russell to collaborate with new artists and other musicians not signed to his label.

With the power to wield the artists at his beck and call, the pedigree of talent collaborating on the debut album “It’ll End In Tears” is nothing short of stellar. We get; The Cocteau Twins, Howard Devoto, Dead Can Dance and Colourbox among others.

Mixed with some original compositions are a selection of songs by Watts-Russell’s favourite artists, covering such diverse ground as Tim Buckley, Roy Harper, Colin Newman and Big Star, all given the ethereal/ dream pop, bordering on Gothic ambient touch, which is associated with the 4AD label. Knowing the origins of the music one could be forgiven for thinking that the album goes to indulgent places but this is an unadulterated success, distilling the best of each artist.

With waves of lush, swirling arrangements drenched in echo and reverb this is luxurious music for the ears. The bands take on Buckley’s ‘Song to the Siren’ is perhaps their best known work, a barren, out of phase guitar line ushers in Liz Fraser’s impossibly wonderful vocal, spiralling into the heavens bathed in vast echo, shot through with sorrow, not so much vocals as her usual mysterious vocalisations. The track records undoubtedly her best performance, eclipsing even her vocal on Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrop’, or the Cocteau’s own ‘Heaven or Las Vegas’. A good indicator of the mood of the track is that David Lynch wanted to use it on ‘Blue Velvet’ but couldn’t afford the cost, eventually getting clearance for use on one of his most cryptic films: ‘Lost Highway’.

Where to Find: It’ll End In Tears (1984)

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