Posts Tagged ‘Fontana Records’

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Kaleidoscope were an English psychedelic rock band from London that originally were active between 1967 and 1970. The band’s songs combined the elements of psychedelia. The band were also known at various times as The Sidekicks, The Key, I Luv Wight and Fairfield Parlour. Their debut album by Kaleidoscope. The British Kaleidoscope released titled ‘Tangerine Dream’ in 1967, at the height of flower power and psychedelia.

Both this album and their second and final album ‘Faintly Blowing’ in 1969 are, in my opinion, the absolute pinnacle of British psychedelia, popsike, anything you wanna call it. Immaculate song writing and harmonies but somehow, unbelievably, the public just didn’t get it. One of my favourite bands of all time. Obviously these days this album is a top collectable and there just ain’t enough to go round! To own a top condition original on Fontana is gonna set you back over a grand.. Ebay has a few on offer but at very high prices.

Having performed since 1963 under the name The Sidekicks, they became The Key in November 1965, before settling upon the name Kaleidoscope when they signed a deal with Fontana Records in January 1967 with the help of the music publisher Dick Leahy.The group consisted of Eddy Pumer on guitar, Steve Clark on bass and flute, and Danny Bridgman on drums and the vocalist Peter Daltrey, who also played various keyboard instruments. Most of the band’s songs were compositions of Pumer’s music and Daltrey’s lyrics. While the group did not achieve major commercial success in its time, it retains a loyal fan-base and its recordings are remembered in high regard. The band’s first single “Flight from Ashiya” (b/w “Holidaymaker”) was released on 15th September 1967 by Fontana Records, a little earlier than the band’s first album Tangerine Dream. The song was telling about an impending plane crash. The single got critical acclaim and quite an amount of radio airplay but failed to reach the charts. Years later, the song has appeared on many compilation albums, including Nuggets II: Original Artyfacts from the British Empire and Beyond, 1964–1969, the second box set of the Nuggets series and Acid Drops, Spacedust & Flying Saucers: Psychedelic Confectionery.

“Tangerine Dream” probably has the edge as the best of this British psychedelic group’s two albums, but not by much. A long sought-after psychedelic rarity, it includes several of Kaleidoscope’s best songs: “Flight from Ashiya,” “Dive into Yesterday,” “The Murder of Lewis Tollani,” and especially the fragile ballad “Please Excuse My Face.”

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Two months later, Tangerine Dream also produced by Dick Leahy was released. The album included “Flight From Ashiya”, “Please Excuse My Face” and “Dive into Yesterday” which are now considered some of the band’s best songs Meanwhile the band were aired performing live on several BBC radio shows. A new single was released in 1968 called “Jenny Artichoke” (b/w “Just How Much You Are”) that was inspired by Donovan’s, “Jennifer Juniper”. After the release the band traveled around Europe, and when in Netherlands supported Country Joe and the Fish at the Amsterdam Concert Hall.

“Faintly Blowing”, again produced by Leahy, was released later, in 1969 by Fontana Records. This time the band’s sound was heavier but the tracks still included psychedelic elements with notable lyrics but it failed to reach the charts. After the failure of “Faintly Blowing”, they released two more singles.

NME 2-12-67 A letter from John Abbey: Kaleidoscope are sweeter than Pink Floyd, not so bitter as the Beatles and have more talent.  Please FONTANA re Issue these albums.

Kaleidoscope:

  • Tangerine Dream (Fontana (S)TL 5448, 24 November 1967)
  • Faintly Blowing (Fontana STL5491, 11 April 1969)
  • White Faced Lady (The Kaleidoscope Record Company KRC 001 CD, 14 February 1991)
  • Please Listen to the Pictures (Circle Records CPWL/CPWC 104, 1 September 2003)

Cocteau Twins The Spangle Maker

The Spangle Maker EP

The addition of Raymonde in 1983 solidified their final line up, which produced The Spangle Maker EP (containing their biggest hit in their native United Kingdom, “Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops”, For a band with a reputation for being esoteric, the Cocteau Twins have crafted some truly memorable, rousing choruses; for example, “Pearly Dewdrops’ Drops”, with its joyous refrain of ‘dizzy, dizzy, dizzy, paddy, paddy, paddy, bicycle and tulips-eh’, or something.

Cocteau Twins Lullabies

Lullabies EP

“Feathers Oar Lands” from follow-up EP Lullabies stands up a lot better. Is that… a riff? A muscular bass-line? Are the Cocteau Twins rocking out? Yes – and I love it. It’s perhaps the only Cocteau Twins song you could start a mosh pit to, albeit a fey, wistful one. You also hear Elizabeth Fraser sounding kind of aloof, which makes for an interesting contrast with her later, more earnest, style.

Cocteau Twins atmosphere is unmistakably present. The bass and drums are the main drivers of this atmosphere. The guitar and vocals are almost like fluttery accents, swirling in and out through the background.

In 1983, the band released a second EP, “Peppermint Pig”, the eponymous title track of an 1983 EP, also sounds surprisingly aggressive. Given how dreamy their later output is, it’s easy to forget that The Cocteau Twins emerged in a post-punk context, but here it’s really apparent. It sounds like Siouxsie and the Banshees, if that’s what you’re into.

Head Over Heels

“Head over Heels” (1983)

The band’s next full-length LP record, Head over Heels, relied solely on the latter two, following Heggie’s amicable departure after the tour that followed the release of Peppermint Pig This led to the characteristic Cocteau Twins sound: Fraser’s voice, by turns ethereal and operatic, combined with increasingly effects-heavy guitar playing by Guthrie (who has often said that he is far more interested in the way the guitar is recorded than in the actual notes being played, though he later admitted that his reliance on effects and layering was initially due to his own technical limitations). Opening track When Mother Was Moth sets the tone, with a slow drum machine drenched in improbable amounts of reverberation and Liz Frazer cooing strange nothings over the top. The effect is magical if you’re hearing it for the first time in 2009. In between this and the closing Musette and Drums is a sequence of often brilliant tunes. Some, like the single Sugar Hiccup are sedate and almost poppy, whilst the fabulously titled Glass Candle Grenades and Tinderbox of a Heart are of the more swirly and adventurous variety.

There is not one duff track on the whole LP, and it all culminates in the simply incredible Musette and Drums. A looping, dramatic guitar phrase underpins one of Liz Frazer’s strongest vocal performances on a killer melody. Robin Guthrie tops even this with a rare screaming guitar solo that sounds like nothing else I’ve ever heard before or since – barely a recognisably melodic note in it, yet full of intense drama, angst and melancholy. It still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

Elizabeth Frazer is one of the most influential vocalists in rock history, and the band that she fronted was at the forefront of one of the many psychedelic-rock genre offshoots – ‘dream-pop’. Frazer consciously appropriated the voice as an instrumental appendage. The Cocteau Twin’s melodies are sublime which Frazer delivers by way of an ethereal and other-wordly contralto. Frazer’s ‘voice instrument’ is wrapped in layer upon layer of Robin Guthrie’s shimmering oneiric guitar and keyboard lines.

“Head Over Heels’  blends celestial singalonds, middle-eastern psalms, majestic spirituals, vibrant melismas, tinkling guitars and neo-classical keyboards. Cocteau Twins‘ songs exhibited the levity and grace of madrigals but also the gloom and pomp of requiems. The dream-pop of the Cocteau Twins shares the contemplative quality and the passion for textures with ‘shoegazing’ bands like ‘Slowdive’ and ‘My Bloody Valentine’, but diverges from this genre in terms of both narrative development and emotional intensity.

Cocteau Twins Sunburst And Snowblind

Sunburst and Snowblind (1983)

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“Treasure (1984)

Taken from 1984’s Treasure LP, “Ivo” is so grand and operatic that it becomes slightly farcical, an effect not helped by the almost yodel-like backing vocals. Still: it’s great. Please forgive me but I have also included their partly terrible, partly charming cover of “Frosty the Snowman”. If nothing else, it’s a testament to the fact Cocteau Twins don’t take themselves too seriously.

I haven’t discussed the album Treasure much but it’s a lot of people’s favourite and when you listen to “Lorelei” you can understand why.; I once heard someone describe it as “what falling in love sounds like”, which is as good a description as any. There’s a deeply poignant emotional intensity to it – it would also be a great soundtrack for a heartbreak.

Cocteau Twins Aikea-Guinea

Aikea-Guinea (1985)

Tiny Dynamine / Echoes in a Shallow Bay (1985)

The Cocteau Twins‘ record company 4AD put this out, a pairing of two of their best mid-eighties EPs . However, in 2006 they released two double-CD sets which comprehensively collected single and EP material covering the band’s entire career from 1982 to 1996. Lullabies to Violaine volume 1 contains all of the music on this CD — in the same track order, even — plus 25 other songs recorded between 1982 and 1990.

As for the songs, well… if you’re at all interested in finding out what the Cocteau Twins were about, then you will want to hear these eight tracks one way or another. I think these two EPs mark the point where the band really began to come into their own unique musical sound — from this point on, for about five years, pretty much everything they touched turned to gold. They had clearly moved on from their early post-punk clumsiness and were really learning how to use sound in the studio. From the ambient soundscapes of ‘Pink Orange Red’ through to the tribal drum patterns and symphonic sweep of ‘Pale Clouded White’, it’s pure Cocteau Twins magic. ‘Melonella’, my favourite track, showcases Liz Fraser’s euphoric glossolalia technique like nothing else I’ve ever heard (here, she seems to be incanting in something vaguely related to Latin). Nobody else could have made this music.

“Victorialand” (1986)

Victorialand released the same year as The Moon and the Melodies, is a stripped-back affair in which Cocteau Twins‘ characteristically expansive soundscapes are often reduced to Fraser’s vocals and a single guitar line. From the former album, it’s remarkable how fresh “Why Do You Love Me” still sounds. With its wailing, siren-like feedback, it reminds me of Mica Levi’s soundtrack Under the Skin.  Victorialand, was Cocteau Twins’ fourth album, was released in spring 1986. The largely acoustic, non-percussive album was made with Elizabeth and Robin, while Simon was working on This Mortal Coil’s second album. Dif Juz label mate Richard Thomas guested on tabla and saxophone. The Guardian said “It’s not quite ambient, but it’s definitely not rock’n’roll even by the Cocteaus’ standards, building on the moments of guitar shimmer from the previous years’ EPs, while also stripping back at points to where it’s nothing but a Guthrie guitar line and Fraser’s voice.”

Raymonde temporarily left the band during the recording of their fourth album, Victorialand. For the 1986 album Victorialand Fraser said, “The lyrics are words I’ve found by going through dictionaries and books in languages I don’t understand. The words don’t have any meaning at all until they’re sung.” In fact, her unique method of songwriting derived in large part from a lack of confidence in her ability to write conventionally: “Looking back, [it] was a tool to help get things out. I didn’t have the confidence just to sit down and write something. I was always running away from that.”

Victorialand, was the Cocteau Twins’ fourth album, was released in the spring of 1986. It’s largely acoustic, non-percussive album. The Guardian said “It’s not quite ambient, but it’s definitely not rock’n’roll even by the Cocteaus’ standards, building on the moments of guitar shimmer from the previous years’ EPs.

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“Blue Bell Knoll” (1988)

In 1988, Cocteau Twins signed with Capitol Records in the United States, distributing their fifth album, Blue Bell Knoll, through a major label in the country. My all-time favourite Cocteau Twins song, “Carolyn’s Fingers”. In its final chorus, two different Fraser vocal lines are laid on top of each other to create one of most exquisitely yearning sounds I’ve ever heard.I defy you to watch the intense sincerity on Fraser’s face (she’s decked out in a prim Victorian gown which makes it even more endearing) and not be moved. There’s an intense vulnerability and earnestness to her performance; at times she seems to flinch from the camera, but there’s a suggestion of joy, too. “Carolyn’s Fingers” speaks to me of endurance, hope and rebirth – which is, of course, pure speculation.

The brilliance of Cocteau Twins is that they capture the lightness of dreams. Their pop sound is like they’ve dipped into your reveries and are playing them back to you. By the time Blue Bell Knoll, the Scottish band’s fifth album, came out in 1988, they had cemented this meld of glittery guitars and avian vocals, this talent for finding pure white in the black abyss of goth. This album, however, was their first significant U.S. release, introduced with their bewildering single “Carolyn’s Fingers.” On it, Elizabeth Fraser’s words are impossible to understand: Either they’re being spoken in another tongue, or you’ve temporarily developed aphasia and can’t compute them. Throughout the record, the trio strip back to their basic groundwork of bass-guitar melodies, a pattern they’d continue on Heaven or Las Vegas two years later. Blue Bell Knoll is not as dynamic a listen as that masterpiece, but its exploration of widescreen space is essential, and set down the canvas for glorious colors to come.

“Heaven or Las Vegas” (1990)

After the 1990 release of their most critically acclaimed album, Heaven or Las Vegas, the band left 4AD Records for Fontana Records, where they released their final two albums. The group released Heaven or Las Vegas in late 1990. The most commercially successful of their many recordings, the album rose to the higher reaches of the UK Albums Chart immediately after its release.

Despite the success of the record and the subsequent concert tours, not everything was well with the band. They parted ways with 4AD following Heaven or Las Vegas partly because of conflicts with the label’s founder Ivo Watts-Russell, and were close to breaking up over internal problems due in large part to Guthrie’s substance abuse. “Heaven or Las Vegas”, which was their biggest hit. It’s extremely accessible and probably the best place to start if you’re a complete novice to the band.

While on their international tour supporting Heaven or Las Vegas, the group signed a new recording contract with Mercury Records subsidiary Fontana for the UK and elsewhere, while retaining their US relationship with Capitol. In 1991, 4AD and Capitol released a box set that compiled the band’s EPs from 1982 to 1990, and also included a bonus disc of rare and previously unreleased material.

Heaven or Las Vegas. You’re either in the good place or a gaudy replica designed to trick you. Sweet relief or a desert mirage. It sounds like a trap, doesn’t it? That’s kind of what the record was for Cocteau Twins, too. Six albums in, the gothy cult heroes of 4AD Records gave in completely to the pop urges they had flirted with on 1988’s Blue Bell Knoll and 1984’sTreasure. Happily, the resulting masterpiece not only defined the Scottish trio for good, it established an ethereal blueprint for dream pop. While there are countless examples of indie bands struggling to marry their deep weirdness to pop structures, the Cocteaus’ version of a slightly more commercial sound did not compromise their individual idiosyncrasies. Rather, it distilled them into something painfully gorgeous and utterly mesmerizing.

Elizabeth Fraser, Robin Guthrie, and Simon Raymonde were each going through heavy periods when they wrote and recorded Heaven or Las Vegas at their own September Sound Studios in London. Raymonde, the keyboard player and bassist, had just lost his father, composer Ivor Raymonde. Guthrie, the guitarist and drum programmer, was at the height of his cocaine addiction, and his partner, vocalist Fraser, was a new mother keeping things together. Fraser had been known for her impressionistic approach to melody, focusing more on the sounds of the words and effortlessly bending them into evocative gibberish with her piercing soprano. On Heaven or Las Vegas, though, you can actually tell that she is singing about her relationship and her daughter, still in an oblique and conflicted way but still with a newfound confidence she attributed to her pregnancy. At the time, dream pop was one of the few rock subgenres where overt femininity was not only tolerated, it was necessary. Fraser had already redefined how operatic vocals, glossolalia, and a vaguely new age aesthetic fit into the ’80s alternative world, but here she was being newly direct with declarations of motherly love—building hooks out of them, in fact, like on the effortlessly cool dance track “Pitch the Baby.” Arranging her peerless voice into more elaborate layers and flows, Fraser centered herself at the forefront of a band now pushing the limits of lushness.

The crucial counterpoint to Fraser’s voice can be found in Guthrie’s elaborate, effects-laden guitar loops, which sent reverb through the songs like an industrial fan whipping air around a warehouse. As a guitarist, Guthrie is to dream pop what Kevin Shields is to shoegaze. But by adopting a dazed, dreamy slide technique on songs like “Cherry-Coloured Funk,” one of the best scene-setting opening tracks ever, Guthrie cemented another aspect of his signature guitar jangle; it’s a tone you can hear traces of in everyone from Lush’s Miki Berenyi to the xx’s Romy Madley Croft to the Weeknd . With Guthrie providing the blissful wave of noise, Raymonde adding the crucial ominous undertone, and Fraser tending to the otherworldly drama, the band reached the heights of their mood-setting abilities while still keeping most of the songs around three minutes. Not that you’d necessarily notice the song lengths: Heaven or Las Vegas is less a collection of tracks than a 37-minute journey to a surreal realm. You don’t know where you are, exactly; you just notice the warm feeling that washes over you when you arrive. Heaven, after all, is subjective.

“Four-Calendar Café” (1993)

Fraser and Guthrie ended their 13-year relationship in 1993, and by this time had a young daughter, Lucy-Belle, born in 1989. The band’s seventh LP, Four-Calendar Café, their first since Fraser and Guthrie’s separation, was released in late 1993. The band explained that Four-Calendar Café was a response to the turmoil that had engulfed them in the intervening years, with Guthrie entering rehab and quitting alcohol and drugs, and Fraser undergoing psychotherapy.

“Bluebeard”, written as her relationship with Guthrie was disintegrating, is often held up as an example of Fraser at her most forthright and confessional. Even though it features lines like “Are you the right man for me? Are you safe? Are you my friend? Or are you toxic for me?’, it’s surprisingly light and breezy.

“Love’s Easy Tears”, along with its music video makes me want to go to the flat of someone who owns a massive television and take psychedelics for several days.

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“Milk & Kisses” (1996)

1995 saw the release of two new EPs: Twinlights and Otherness. Some of the tracks on Twinlights and Otherness were versions of songs from the band’s eighth album, Milk & Kisses (1996). The record saw the return of more heavily layered guitars, and Fraser began once again to obscure her lyrics, though not entirely. Two singles were taken from the album: “Tishbite (song)” “Violaine” both exist in two CD versions, with different A-side and B-side included on each. The band, augmented by an extra guitarist and a drummer, toured extensively to support the album, their last for Mercury/Fontana. A new song, “Touch Upon Touch”, which debuted during the live shows and was recorded later in 1996 was also one of the two songs written and arranged by Fraser, Guthrie and Raymonde for Chinese pop singer Faye Wong for her Mandarin album Fuzao released in June 1996, the other being “Tranquil Eye” from Violaine released in October 1996.

In 1997, while recording what was to have been their ninth LP, the trio disbanded over irreconcilable differences in part related to the breakup of Guthrie and Fraser. While a number of songs were partially recorded and possibly completed, the band has stated that they will likely never be finished or released in any form.

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In 1999 Bella Union, the record label founded by Guthrie and Raymonde, released a double-CD Cocteau Twins compilation entitled BBC Sessions. The collection is a complete record of the band’s appearances on UK radio programs from 1982 to 1996, with rare and unreleased material included. In 2000, 4AD released Stars and Topsoil, a compilation of selected songs picked by the band members that had been released during their years with 4AD; all recordings had been digitally remastered by Guthrie. Finally, in 2003, 4AD followed Stars and Topsoil with the release of digitally remastered versions of the first six Cocteau Twins LPs.

Later in 2005, 4AD released a worldwide limited edition of 10,000 compilation box set titled, Lullabies to Violaine, a 4-disc set that details every single and EP released from 1982 to 1996. This was shortly followed up by two 2-disc sets of the same names, known simply as Volume 1 and Volume 2.

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Catherine Wheel were a four-piece alternative rock band from Great Yarmouth, England. The band was active from 1990 to 2000, experiencing fluctuating levels of commercial success, and embarking on many lengthy tours. The band comprised singer-guitarist Rob Dickinson (cousin of Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson), guitarist Brian Futter, bassist Dave Hawes, and drummer Neil Sims. Hawes had previously played in a Joy Division-influenced band called Eternal. They took their moniker from the firework known as the Catherine wheel, which in turn had taken its name from the medieval torture device of the same name. The band was sometimes included in the shoegazing scene, characterized by bands that made extensive use of guitar feedback and droning washes of noise, as well as their continuous interaction with extensive numbers of effects pedals on the stage floor.

The band performed a Peel session in early 1991 while still unsigned; two 12″ vinyl EPs were released on the Norwich-based Wilde Club Records,named after the regular weekly Wilde Club gigs run by Barry Newman at Norwich Arts Centre. They signed to major-label Fontana Records after being courted by both Creation Records and the Brian Eno-run label Opal Records. The band’s debut album, 1991/92’s “Ferment”, made an immediate impression on the music press and introduced Catherine Wheel’s second-biggest U.S. hit, “Black Metallic”, as well as the moderate hit “I Want to Touch You”. The album features re-recorded versions of some of the Wilde Club-issued EPs. “Black Metallic” was later featured in the film S. Darko.

The more aggressive Chrome followed in 1993, produced by Gil Norton. With this album, the band began to shed its original shoegazing tag, while still making skillful use of atmospherics, such as on the song “Fripp”In a 2007 interview, Rob Dickinson said that members of Death Cab for Cutie and Interpol told him that without this album, their bands “wouldn’t exist.

1995’s Happy Days saw the band delving further into metallic hard rock, which alienated a portion of their fanbase, even as it increased their exposure in the United States during the post-grunge era. The single “Waydown”, and especially its plane-crash themed video, received heavy play in the U.S. A more sedate strain of rock known as Britpop was taking over in the UK, causing Catherine Wheel to continue to have greater success abroad than at home.

The B-sides and outtakes collection, Like Cats and Dogs, came out the following year, revealing a quieter, more contemplative side of the band, spanning the previous five years. This carried over into Adam and Eve in 1997, wherein the band scaled back the sonic force of their sound from its Happy Days levels, with clean playing on some songs that featured extensive use of keyboards and acoustic guitars. Alternately, songs like “Satellite” and “Here Comes the Fat Controller” were lush and orchestral in scope.

In 2000, Catherine Wheel re-emerged with a new record label, a new bassist (Ben Ellis); a modified name (The Catherine Wheel); and a new album, Wishville. After mixed reviews, record company turmoil and lacklustre sales, the band went on a still-continuing hiatus.

In March 2010, Ferment was re-released, containing bonus tracks and extensive sleeve notes.