Posts Tagged ‘Simon Raymonde’

Cocteau Twins, former CT bassist Simon Raymonde and Richie Thomas of Dif Juz are gearing up to release their second Lost Horizons albums, In Quiet Moments, on February 26th via Bella Union Records. It’s a double and packed with notable guest vocalists to help them achieve their cinematic vision. The terrific first half, which came out digitally back in November, features guest vocals from John Grant, Porridge Radio, Penelope Isles, former Midlake frontman Tim Smith and more, while Pt 2 features Marissa Nadler, Ural Thomas, The Innocence Mission’s Karen Peris, and more.

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As you’d expect from two men who released records during the ’80s arty heyday of 4AD, the artwork is as important as the music itself. The packaging for the Deluxe Edtion vinyl of In Quiet Moments is especially lovely and comes on ocean blue and green vinyl, with a wide-spinned sleeve on uncoated/reverse board and is housed in a cool PVC outer sleeve with printed text. (There’s also a sticker, for those looking to cover logos on your laptop or decorating your fridge.) We’ve got a special edition in our store where the first 100 orders come with an art print postcard signed by Simon Raymonde.  

While we wait for the whole thing to drop, you can listen toIn Quiet Moments Part 1 now along with the Marissa Nadler song, “Marie,” from Part 2:

Releases February 26th, 2021

Lost Horizons

Lost Horizons are back with another preview of their “In Quiet Moments” album, this time teaming up with Marissa Nadler for “Marie“. The new track arrives with a video created by Nadler, with editing and direction by Penelope Isles’ Jack Wolter. Lost Horizons say of their new outing, “I don’t think there was ever a second I wasn’t going to find a song for Marissa to sing on the new album track. So much cool stuff came out of our last collaborations on Ojalá, indeed I think we ended up recording four songs from the original idea of doing one! Marissa is a really great & generous collaborator as she really throws herself in deep and commits to it fully. That is a rare and beautiful gift and Richie and I appreciate it enormously.”

“Marie” marks Lost Horizons’ second release of 2021 after Ural Thomas collaboration “In Quiet Moments” that landed earlier this month.

They add, “It was a beast of a track to mix I’ll be honest, and that had nothing to do with Marissa’s vocals, in fact they were a breeze to mix. But the initial music that Richie and I improvised in our basement studio in Brighton was a bit messy and we didn’t use a click or anything to keep tempo so fixing anything later was a lost cause, but it is such a cool piece that I loved creating (I think i put 4 maybe 5 bass parts on with my old trusty Fender VI string bass guitar!) that even when it’s kinda falling apart during that instrumental section near the end, I still love it. It probably sounds like it took half an hour to mix but the truth is it took weeks of starting it, scrapping it, starting over, scrapping it, etc. And yes, I fully intend to ask Marissa to contribute to our next one too.”

In Quiet Momentswhich will follow 2017’s Ojalá, will also feature previous outings “One For Regret” featuring Porridge Radio, “Grey Tower” featuring Tim Smith of Midlake, Then there is the John Grant collaboration “Cordelia” and “I Woke Up With An Open Heart” featuring The Hempolics.

Lost Horizons is a rare sighting of two gifted musicians who, for different reasons, have been largely absent from music-making for the last 20 years. Yet their debut record Ojalá is proof of a telepathic relationship through music, established when the pair first became collaborators and friends in the eighties.  Raymonde was the bassist of the seminal Cocteau Twins, where the vein of melancholia went very deep. Even before the band had signed to 4AD, the label were releasing records by the instrumental quartet Dif Juz, arguably the first word in post-rock, 15 years before it became a trend: Richie Thomas was their anchor; the engine room of their wondrous free-flow. The two bands became friends, and toured together.

Taken from the album ‘In Quiet Moment’s’ due 26th February via Bella Union Records:

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On the surface, this isn’t as essential a release as other BBC John Peel sessions LPs. Because the Cocteau Twins used drum machines, the backing tracks and the rhythms replicate the known versions much more than other bands forced to record live in the studio. Yet these BBC John Peel Sessions is still a whopper of a treat for fans and the uninitiated, A sound that builds and builds until one is overcome with unspeakable, barely understood emotions  as Elizabeth Fraser starts to blossom into one of the most riveting voices to ever blow air into a mic.

The original members were Elizabeth Fraser (vocals), Robin Guthrie (guitar, drum machine) and Will Heggie (bass guitar), who was replaced by Simon Raymonde (also bass guitar) early in the band’s career.
These BBC Sessions were released as an an album of BBC studio recordings by the band The Cocteau Twins released in 1999 by Bella Union in the UK and Rykodisc in the US. The album spanned the band’s career from the early 1980s through the 1990s. Taken from a series of early 1980s Peel sessions. Throughout most of the Eighties, Peel made favourable comments on the band in interviews.

The band were discovered by Peel when they sent demo tapes to him and the 4AD label. After hearing the demo, Peel invited the group to do a session for his show in 1982. The 4AD label heard the track and signed them. Peel would play their songs throughout most of the Eighties, although by the time the band released their 1988 ‘Blue Bell Knoll’ album, his interest appeared to have waned. At the end of 1988, Peel’s listeners voted their track ‘Carolyn Fingers’ in the 1988 Festive Fifty, despite the DJ not playing any tracks from the album throughout the year.

John Peel Session, 15th July 1982

“Alas Dies Laughing” – 3:29
“Feathers-Oar-Blades” – 2:19
“Garlands” – 4:19
“Wax and Wane” – 3:50

John Peel Session, 31st January 1983

“Hearsay Please” – 4:23
“Dear Heart” – 3:37
“Blind Dumb Deaf” – 3:41
“Hazel” – 3:22

John Peel Session, 4th October 1983

“Strange Fruit” (Billie Holiday cover written by Abel Meeropol) – 1:52
“From the Flagstones” – 3:
“The Tinderbox (Of A Heart)” – 4:46
“Hitherto” – 3:57

In 1984 Peel included ‘From The Flagstones’ by the Cocteaus in his selections for “My Top Ten” and discussed the band with Andy Peebles. Cocteau Twins – From the Flagstones .Well, this is my favourite record of last year. And they were one of those bands again, like when I first heard them I thought, “Great, I’m glad I lived long enough to hear this.” My favourite record of last year, The Cocteau Twins and From The Flagstones. It’s a very, very pleasant voice actually. I like listening to that. Well, I like the extreme voices. I was just thinking that. Over the years it has always been people who have got the really idiosyncratic voices that I like Beefheart, Marc Bolan, Rod Stewart, Elizabeth Frazer of the Cocteaus, Mark Smith of The Fall people like them.

John Peel Session, 5th September 1984

“Pepper Tree”
“Whisht [Beatrix]”
“Peep-Bo [Ivo]”
“Otterley”

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.

Cocteau Twins

4AD Records are re-pressing two more Cocteau Twins records on vinyl this coming March, the albums “Head Over Heels” and “Treasure”.  These are the latest additions to our ongoing reissues from the band, following Blue Bell Knoll, Heaven or Las Vegas, Tiny Dynamine / Echoes In A Shallow Bay and The Pink Opaque.

Using new masters created from high definition files transferred from the original analogue tapes, both albums are being pressed on 180g heavyweight vinyl and come with download codes.  Digital HD audio versions of both albums will also be made available through specialist retailers at the same time.

When they first emerged in the early 80s, the Cocteau Twins were compared most often to Siouxsie & The Banshees, but in truth they never sounded like anyone  or anything else. Taken together, their nine albums, and sixteen EPs/singles, sound less like a band and more like an element of nature.

Which was very 4AD. Ivo Watts-Russell has always claimed that his aim was to unearth music that was timeless, free of any trend, movement or era and even in their earliest incarnation, the Cocteau Twins were true to that remit, firmly charting their own course. The band’s name was plucked from an old Simple Minds track, but the foundations were laid some time before, when old school friends Robin and Will saw Liz dancing in a disco. In a stroke of precognitive genius, the boys decided that if Liz could dance that well, then she should be able to sing that well, too.

Some time later, Robin’s chance meeting with early 4AD signings The Birthday Party resulted in a tape being sent to Ivo, who was thrilled by what he heard, and encouraged them to record more. Plans for a debut single were shelved, and the stark, mercurial Garlands appeared instead. Describing it as “haunting”, “spellbound”, “diaphanous”, and discerning a “frosting of sweetness”, the critics wore out their adjective; this was rock music  just – but it was conjured in the unlikeliest environment from the strangest of material. They stayed a trio, with a drum machine on board, so preserving their tightly knit, private world. In fact, that world was diminished rather than expanded when, after two EPs and a European tour, Will Heggie left, leaving Robin and Liz, by then a couple, to carry on as a duo. The pair recorded the Head Over Heels album and the Sunburst And Snowblind EP in 1983. On these recordings, Liz could be heard forming her own language recognisable words emerging and submerging in a maelstrom of her own, coated and drowned in Robin’s swelling guitar lines. Bass player Simon Raymonde, formerly of The Drowning Craze, joined the band at the end of 1983.

A trio again, the band recorded The Spangle Maker EP, which included the majestic ‘Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops’, their first Top 30 hit. With Simon on board, the band developed bottom end, deeper eddies and currents, but an increased lightness of touch, too. They were evolving with each release, with Liz especially pushing herself further and further. Back in the studio, 1984’s Treasure brought more layers of ornateness, opaqueness and stateliness to the band’s sound. This time, Liz’s songtitles were names: not just ‘Lorelei’ and ‘Pandora’, but ‘Ivo’, ‘Persephone’ and ‘Aloysius’ too. Liz, in her naivety, never considered that people might put those titles and the album cover (all lace and shadows) together, and came up with the ‘fey Victoriana’ tag that the trio came to hate. Despite this sort of misinterpretation, the music continued along its own resolute path, through three EPs in 1985: Aikea-Guinea, Tiny Dynamine and Echoes In A Shallow Bay. Each one signalled a move towards an increasingly abstract ‘floating’ sound – a move that culminated in Robin and Liz (minus Simon) recording the largely acoustic, non-percussive Victorialand.

The Cocteaus re-emerged 12 months later with Blue Bell Knoll, which was warmer and lusher than ever, but more concentrated and concise too. This progression was even more marked with 1990’s Heaven Or Las Vegas: an audible release of tension and a surge of unfettered love that is many people’s favourite Cocteaus album. Heaven Or Las Vegas was also the last record the Cocteau Twins made for 4AD. They’d been part of the family for years, helping to define what the press used to call the “4AD sound”, and it’s almost always the way that family members must at some point leave the nest. The die was cast, and they departed for Fontana, releasing two more albums (Four Calendar Café, and Milk And Kisses) before disbanding in 1996. Four years later, the 4AD retrospective Stars And Topsoil served as a reminder of the trio’s uniquely bewitching music.

Head Over HeelsandTreasure byCocteau Twins are reissued on vinyl.  These are the latest additions to our ongoing reissues from the band, following Blue Bell Knoll, Heaven or Las Vegas, Tiny Dynamine / Echoes In A Shallow Bay and The Pink Opaque.

Using new masters created from high definition files transferred from the original analogue tapes, both albums are being pressed on 180g heavyweight vinyl

Ojalá

Lost Horizons is the new musical project of former–Cocteau Twin and Bella Union boss Simon Raymonde and Richie Thomas of early 4AD figureheads Dif Juz.

Their debut album, Ojalá ,released in November, incorporates a heady cast of guest singers. Some are signed to Bella Union, such as Marissa Nadler and former Midlake frontman Tim Smith, while others are long-time favourites of Raymonde’s (Leila Moss of The Duke Spirit and Ghostpoet), or newer discoveries (Beth Cannon, Hilang Child, Gemma Dunleavy and Phil McDonnell). Together, the Lost Horizons ensemble has created an hour of exquisite, expansive and diverse spellcasting.

For the live incarnation of the band, Lost Horizons will include three vocalists: Ed Riman aka Hilang Child and Beth Cannon, both of whom appear on the album, as well as Helen Ganya Brown who records under the alias Dog In The Snow. “The Places We’ve Been” features the voice of Karen Peris, and is taken from Lost Horizons’ debut album “Ojalá”, due for release 3rd November via Bella Union Records.

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‘The Places We’ve Been’ by Lost Horizons  (the collaboration between Cocteau Twins’ Simon Raymonde & former Dif Juz and Jesus & Mary Chain drummer Richie Thomas). This single features the melancholic vocals of Karen Peris (Innocence Mission) in a swirling arrangement of plucked guitar strings  which will become part of their debut album due out in November: ‘Ojalá’.

If Peris’ vocal performance wasn’t engaging enough, Lost Horizons creates a crawling pop sound that seems rooted in the stars. “The Places We’ve Been” is simply enchanting in its ambient sound with a sneaking air of the post-punk we would expect from ex Cocteau/Bella Union man Simon Raymonde, including a sleeping guitar solo that fits together with precision.

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“Frenzy, Fear” features vocals from Hilang Child, and is taken from Lost Horizons‘ debut album “Ojalá”, due for release 3rd November via Bella Union.

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Now here’s another song from the album, “Frenzy, Fear,” which features Hilang Child (aka singer/songwriter Ed Riman, a half-Welsh, half-Indonesian Londoner). Listen below.

Raymonde had this to say about the song in a statement: “‘Frenzy, Fear’ was recorded in January this year. I thought I was close to finishing the album and decided I wanted to do some ambient piano + guitar pieces for a possible bonus disc, to show a different side to Lost Horizons. Warren Ellis of the Bad Seeds/Dirty Three told me about this wonderful piano in a small studio just outside Brighton where I live, where he and Nick Cave work a lot, and I took two days there with no ideas or tunes, just improvising and recording everything, warts and all. When I got home and listened back, these seemed more like proper songs than just noodlings, so the minute I started imagining vocals I thought of Hilang Child (Ed Riman) as his voice is simply exquisite, and I knew he would get the vibe and the mood. What he did exceeded all my expectations though.”

Ojalá is set to release on 3rd November from Bella Union Records

Bella booklet

Simon Raymonde never really meant for Bella Union to become a music industry success story.

When he started the label back in 1997, it was nothing more than a vehicle for his artistic endeavours with Cocteau Twins. Bruised by dismaying music business experiences, Raymonde and bandmate Robin Guthrie made a brave, autonomous move – starting a label with which to put out their own records.

Then, in a classic indie-label-starts-with-laughable-disaster moment, Cocteau Twins split up. Six months after we started the label, Liz called up and said she didn’t want to do the band anymore. The intention of the label was to put out our own music – it was never to sign other bands, to be an actual record label; we hated record labels! We had such a terrible experience with 4AD, and then another terrible experience with a major.

Raymonde knew if his fledgling record label wasn’t going to be dissolved before it had got going, he needed to become an A&R, and sign some bands. The band [Cocteau Twins] had an undeniably difficult relationship with 4AD. Then we made a huge mistake and signed with Universal – with Mercury – in 1994.

We started the label, got the logo done, letterheads, an office, staff… and then we had no band.

Nineteen years later, we have his willingness to do so to thank for standout records from the likes of John Grant, Explosions In The Sky, Laura Veirs, Midlake, Beach House, Father John Misty, Ezra Furman, The Walkmen, The Flaming Lips, PINS, Money and Lanterns On The Lake.

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Of course, you can also add to that list Fleet Foxes – whose self-titled 2008 debut and 2011 follow-up, “Helplessness Blues”,have reached a level of commercial success all-too-rarely enjoyed in the independent label sector.

Getting a BRIT Award nomination for John [Grant, 2014] and Father John Misty [2016] – that’s huge when you think how this label started.

It’s a real challenge to break a new band – much more than it was five years ago. Yeah, we’ve got John Grant, Beach House, Father John Misty, Explosions in the Sky and several artists like these who sell 20,000 to 50,000 records. And that’s decent. I’m very happy. But those are all bands who are now in their 30s.

The challenge is, how do we break a band in their 20s who haven’t put three albums out back in the age when CDs were still selling and you could get blanket press? I fear it’s not easy.

There’s brilliant bands everywhere. Especially Fleet Foxes, That band has been massive for Bella Union. I probably wouldn’t be here without them, and the signing, to keep the whole thing going, was pivotal. I was about to give up the label before I heard that song, “White Winter Hymnal”.

I’d gone to Oya Festval in 2007. We’d had Midlake’s record [The Trials Of Van Occupanther], which came out in 2006. I was so upset this record hadn’t sold a million copies. I still think it’s a classic album.

We’d sold 30,000 copies in the UK, which was good, but it wasn’t what it deserved. I was thinking, if only I had some money in the bank, even something small – £10,000 extra to do some posters or some more marketing.

In those days our marketing was literally: put the record out. There was no money for anything beyond a press and radio campaign that we did in-house with Duncan and Cool Badge.

It was the same with Fionn Regan [who released Mercury-nominated album The End Of History on Bella Union in 2006]; we got to that 30,000 level but we didn’t have the cash injection to get it above 50,000. It was so frustrating.

So I was at Oya Festival, miserable, thinking, ‘I don’t think I can do this any more.’ My first marriage had gone all wrong and I’d just gotten divorced. I was at a low ebb.

Claus who runs Oya had invited some people including me to his house for a get-together but I was really not feeling sociable at all, quite out of sorts, sat overlooking the fjord – I thought, okay, I’m going to go home, tell everyone at the label, that’s it.

I got back to my hotel room and got an email from this friend called Trey, who booked Midlake and Beach House in the US. He said, ‘You’ve got to listen to this MySpace link. I just saw this band’s third ever gig – I think you might like it.’

I pressed play and within ten seconds, I was like, ‘I HAVE to sign this band. This is the one.’ I wrote to the band on Myspace, from my hotel room and it turned out that Robin the band’s singer/writer was in Norway with his brother and sister – despite living in Seattle. His ancestors are Norwegian. A really weird coincidence.

I explained what Bella Union was and that I used to be in [Cocteau Twins], and I was encouraged that he knew who I was. He was flying to London the next day, and that’s where we met the next week. We got on really great.

I offered him a worldwide deal, even though we didn’t really have anything going on in the US at the time. I also offered to manage him! Whatever I could do, you know. Then it went a bit quiet – a month went by after I’d made him an offer, and I’d heard a whisper that he was talking to Sub-Pop. He lives in Seattle, so it made sense he would be speaking to them.

I put 2 and 2 together and realised something was going wrong, and that I needed to do something about it. Eventually, he wrote me and said: ‘Listen, we’ve had a worldwide offer from Sub-Pop and I think we’re going to do it. I wanted to let you know about it first.’

I immediately wrote back, without self-editing, with what I felt. I said: ‘I get it. I’d probably do the same thing in your shoes. Why wouldn’t you? It’s an iconic label, one of the best, round the corner from your flat. But just think about it for a second. Over here, Sub-Pop don’t quite have the setup. Who’s going to meet you at the airport in London or Paris? If you sign to Bella Union, or any label with a similar setup around Europe, you’ll have a home here.’

It was true. The next day, I got the contract back from the band, signed, for Europe. It was musician to musician, not as a guy cynically trying to get him to sign. That’s where sometimes, I win, and sometimes I lose.

 


Bella Union also signed The Czars, 

Yeah. I’ve worked with John Grant since 1998; the year after the label started. In the days when people used to use DATs, he sent me one of a Czars demo and it was… awful.

I remember writing back – he seemed really nice in the letter – saying, ‘Your voice is good, really interesting. But the music’s not. Maybe send me some stuff another time.’ A few months later, another DAT, and some of it was pretty good, but the band still sounded pretty rubbish. I told him. He was like: ‘Yeah, I know. I’m trying to do something about it.’

Then I saw them play in Denver. The band were good, not great, but he had something about him. He was this big guy with this fragility and an amazingly powerful voice.

In those days, we had a beautiful recording studio which Cocteau Twins had on the river in Richmond. It was Pete Townshend’s studio and, well, ‘cos it was in Richmond, the rent was fucking ridiculous – like £60,000 a year.

The band had broken up by then, so there was no income to pay for the studio. Pete was a very generous guy [and let the band owe him rent]. It was the last days before we were kicked out, really.

I offered to bring The Czars over and to produce their album in that studio. That’s what I did; I played a lot of the instruments, got very hands on with it. I really enjoyed the process. I think John did too, in his own way.

Then we made another album, and I went to Denver to produce that one. I always knew that it was all about John. The Czars made a third album, then John was starting to have some problems with the band – they weren’t improving at the rate we needed them to improve, but his songwriting was getting better and better.

I should say, we were selling no records at all at this point. The Czars first three albums probably sold 5,000 copies each. But I just knew that John would make an amazing record at some point.

Then he got into trouble – he had big problems with drink and drugs and stopped making music. He was translating Russian medical text books into German and living in New York, I think; he’s an incredible linguist. He speaks about 10 languages fluently.

He was miserable as sin. Then the Midlake guys, God bless them, heard he wasn’t well – rumours were that he was on suicide watch in a hospital, I think – and they said: ‘You need to get back to Texas. We’ll look after you. We’ll get you well. Come and stay with us and make a record.’

They literally put him up in their houses for six months to a year. Going in the studio in the evening after they’d finished their own record during the day time. My part in this is very minimal, really. I believed in him and thought he’d make a great record, but I wasn’t the one looking after him. Midlake did it all off their own back. And then John delivered this amazing record, “Queen Of Denmark”.

The catalyst to the whole John Grant success story is Phil Alexander, the editor of Mojo, who had come to my office in Hackney. I was playing him the latest Midlake album and talking to him about getting on board with it – he’s a massive fan. And as he was about to leave, I said come back and let me play you this thing by John Grant from The Czars. I played him two unmixed tracks and he was completely blown away.

A month later, I was speaking to Phil about something else and I said, By the way, how did that interview with John go? And he was like, ‘It was unbelievable – it was a four hour phone call. I couldn’t ever transcribe it. It was like a therapy session. It was too intense, too personal.’

But two months later, Phil made Queen Of Denmark Album Of The Month in Mojo. That support was huge – for John Grant to get a five-star, two-page review with a hand-painted illustration on the second page… when no-one knew who he was. .

We are lucky enough to have two limited and exclusive coloured vinyl pressings of the long out of print Jonathan Wilson albums Gentle Spirit and Fanfare. If you purchase any of the Bella Union titles you’ll also get a free sampler CD and booklet, once again exclusive to Rough Trade

Jonathan wilson

20 years doing ANYTHING in music seems faintly absurd, let alone running a record label, something my previous 20 years making music mostly with my band Cocteau Twins certainly did not prepare me for. What I do know is that i have always wanted to run this label from the perspective of an artist and was always advised that this wasn’t possible to make work over a long and sustained period. So, even if this all goes pear shaped tomorrow, I think we have done a great job to still be in business after 20 of the most tumultuous years in the music industry’s history, and this I am sure is in great part down to the team I’ve been lucky enough to work with at the label throughout these dark times. Simon Raymonde – Bella Union.

Snowbird is the union of former Cocteau Twins instrumentalist Simon Raymonde, now the label boss of London-based label Bella Union, and Wisconsin-born singer-songwriter Stephanie Dosen. Released in January, the duo presents a collection of sensual, enigmatic songs that simply glide off Raymonde’s piano and Dosen’s tongue. While it might be easy to lose yourself in the sheer loveliness of all this, there are exceptional songs that remove any threat of stupor, not least the lushly realised “All Wishes Are Ghosts.” The accompanying video directed by Jamie Stone blends footage from Victor Sjöström’s 1918 film “Berg-Ejvind och hans Hustru” (“The Outlaw and His Wife”), adapted from the Icelandic play by Jóhann Sigurjónsson, with a contemporary tale that sits perfectly and movingly alongside it. Awesome beauty.

Scottish Rock band the Cocteau Twins featuring the haunting atomospheric  Vocals of ELIZABETH FRASIER, created Beautiful worldly melodies and ambient sounds, This track taken from the Four Calendars album released in 1993,