Friday, August 25, 2006

Elizabeth Fraser: Vocalist Extraordinaire

Metamorphosing from one of the pioneering post-punk, Goth-rock bands on the infamous 4AD label to arguably the most accomplished dream-pop band ever, Cocteau Twins remain relevant even a full decade after they went their separate ways. Cocteau Twins practically invented and radicalised the dream-pop genre, where gossamer, breathy vocals drift and glide on top of an ambient bedrock of processed and echoed guitar and synthesizer sounds, creating a netherworld soundscape that was both ecstatic and frightening at the same time.

The main ingredient in Cocteau Twins' unique, dreamlike sound was the dramatic, otherworldly, ethereal-beyond-description voice of Elizabeth Fraser. Fraser had a highly distinctive vocal style that could be as caressing as a lover's whisper one moment, and as goosebump-inducing as an avenging angel the next.

Fraser also sung in an indecipherable fashion, nonchalantly pilfering words from English, Latin, Gaelic and other arcane languages, and jumbling them up in a highly textural and ultimately emotional collision of sounds. This made for an unparalleled aural mix that had absolutely no musical precedents.

A good example of Fraser's vocal acrobatics can be found on the title track of 1990's heavenly "Heaven or Las Vegas". Be prepared to be mesmerised.


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