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Cocteau Twins – Tiny Dynamine/Echoes in a Shallow Bay

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Cocteau Twins - Tiny DynamineNobody ever sounded like the Cocteau Twins, a band so startlingly original that they spurred a lot of imitators; they took the jangle of indie to a whole different level, an otherworldly soak that no doubt inspiring the shoegrazery verve that would follow in their wake. By 1985 they already had three albums under their belts, but their sound was still evolving to ever-more luscious territories, concocting a few catchy (unintentional) hits along the way; amazing realised pearls such as “Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops” and “Spangle Maker”.

Now Tiny Dynamine and Echoes in a Shallow Bay were two EPs originally released two weeks apart from each other (each a companion piece for the other) that attempted to follow in that “Spangle Maker” vein but ended up more subtle, atmospheric — dare I say experimental affairs in comparison. An output that slipped nicely between the dynamism of 1984’s Treasure and that finally came to creative fruition on 1986’s Victorialand. In fact aethers of that album can be clearly heard on either of these EPs, but in particular on Echoes in a Shallow Bay (and such a great album title too).

Tiny Dynamine’s opener “Pink Orange Red” has a hold your breath clarity that is awe-inspiring. I remember being gobsmacked seeing the video on TV (The Tube was always exemplary in the gobsmacking department), Liz Fraser’s orange spiked hair and that extraordinary voice of hers haiku-eking from within the filigree of stone-washed guitars and pebbling drum machine. A delicate exotica that was reflected in the accompanied textural sheen of the artwork, an amorphous sense of possibilities plucked from some alternate reality, very much like the music.

The warm and inviting glow of Liz’s plaintive syllables falling between the sizzling gorgeousness of it all, quite intoxicating, romantic even, in a pre-Raphaelite sense; a melodic melancholy that haunts you, like a first love remembered. A Man Ray silver nitrate caught in a glance that floats as light of air. A delicate construct that wields an unfathomable pull…

The nervous tingle of “Plain Tiger”, majestically launching into multi-tracked vocal melodies mirrored in hazy Guthrieized folds and lush beatologies. Eighties beats can sound way too mechanical, cheap; but the ones here are more richly bathed. The strike floats the mix sub-strata whilst those meaty rebounds hold higher to brilliant effect, tailgating the bass in dissolving after images. “Sultitan Itan” is my next favourite here, its wild-eyed panorama bringing to mind “Garlands”‘ choppy waters. I remember downing a bottle of wine and reeling around to its circulars as Fraser’s staggered spell-weaves worked their inexorable magic.

Cocteau Twins - Echoes in a Shallow BayThere’s subtle shifts on the companion EP Echoes in a Shallow Bay — things get more turbulent, introduce darker hues, something that’s typified by the swirling cinematic epicness of “Great Spangled Fritillary”. Those crashing waves of Robin’s guitar, the gong reverbs and scattering pans, entomological constellations that never fail to bring the hairs on the back of my neck right up. “Melonella” follows, its colours gymnastically curving to the butterfly theme, that unnerving double echo cutting at the usual angelics — brilliant stuff. The glitter-berried “Pale Clouded White” too, full of opulent melodics, dreamy sweeps. A fantasia of textures interplaying with your senses whilst Elizabeth Fraser lullabies you to an inch of your life.

For all those lovers of indecipherable bliss, this is definitely worth the re-press.

-Michael Rodham-Heaps-

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