Much like 1985 had been, 1986 was another productive yet non-standard year, with the band shying well away from the traditional album and accompanying singles music business way of doing things. This year saw a stripped-down duo version of the band release a unique, subsequently well-loved minimal sounding album, one full-band, full-blooded EP and a collaborative album that didn’t even mention the band by name… plus a few more compilation releases yielding different versions or exclusive tracks once more…
CD: ‘The Pink Opaque’ (4AD CAD CD513 / Relativity EMCD 8040)
1986 got off to a start with the first ever CD release by 4AD (apparently), in the form of the compilation album ‘The Pink Opaque’ – this CD version was issued in the UK with a release date of 17th January 1986 and I’m unsure of the US release date – the significance being that this was a joint pressing between 4AD in the UK and Relativity in the US. The CD has an identical track listing to the vinyl/cassette release of this compilation from the previous year. So, it is primarily of interest as far as versions go of containing the remixed/re-recorded ‘Wax and Wane’ and the non-album previously cassette-only ‘Millimillenary’. It’s worth noting too that the version of ‘Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops’ is the 7″ version.
- The Spangle Maker (4’39”)
- Millimillenary (3’38”)
- Wax And Wane (Remix) (3’49”)
- Hitherto (3’50”)
- Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops (7″ Version) (4’08”)
- From The Flagstones (3’38”)
- Aikea-Guinea (3’54”)
- Lorelei (3’40”)
- Pepper-Tree (3’57”)
- Musette And Drums (4’36”)
LP / Cassette: ‘Victorialand’ (4AD, CAD 602 / CADC 602)
Released on Monday 14 or Friday 18 April 1986, initially on LP and cassette only, this was the album that had been mentioned as early as the previous autumn in news reports as featuring only Robin and Liz. And so it was to be. Out go the familiar, big, booming drum machine sounds which immediately lightens up the overall sound to reveal a far more delicate structure, immediately more redolent of the ‘Song To The Siren’ feel from the 1983 This Mortal Coil single. There are some beautiful pieces to be found here – my own favourites come in the shape of ‘Whales Tails’ and ‘The Thinner The Air’.
Somewhat oddly, the LP ended up being cut to run at 45 rpm in this initial release due to the sound of the music. And of course that music was made by a version of the Cocteau Twins comprising only Elizabeth and Robin, with one additional guest in the form of Richard Thomas of the band Dif Juz, contributing saxophone and tablas.
- Lazy Calm (6’36”)
- Fluffy Tufts (3’06”)
- Throughout The Dark Months Of April And May (3’05”)
- Whales Tails (3’16”)
- Oomingmak (2’43”)
- Little Spacey (3’26”)
- Feet-Like Fins (3’26”)
- How To Bring A Blush To The Snow (3’50”)
- The Thinner The Air (3’16”)
The cassette version followed the LP tracklisting and has no major differences, though as ever with 23 Envelope and 4AD, the artwork layout has its own unique take on the design. (Thanks as ever to Lieutenant 030 for these photos.)
23 Envelope posters (4AD, WAD 23) and postcards (4AD, PAD 23) sets
Released around the same time as ‘Victorialand’ (21st of April 1986, to be precise) was a pack of 15 poster designs for 4AD releases by 23 Envelope, amongst which were several Cocteau Twins designs.
I never bought the poster set, but there was also a more modestly priced postcard set that appeared a month later, which I did come by.
The designs differ between the two sets. The posters include images and text whereas the postcards concentrate on the images alone. Note: The plastic pack for the postcards shown here is not the original – which perished – this is a modern, though similar, replacement.
1986 CD re-issue series
In early July 1986, 4AD issued all of the Cocteau Twins albums to date on CD format, in some cases compiling and enhancing or combining some of the releases along the way in the same way that some of the cassette editions had been.
7″ : Various Artists: ‘Vinyl Conflict 2’ EP (Melody Maker, CONFLICT 2)
This compilation 7″ EP was a cover-mount giveaway with the Melody Maker music paper, issue dated 27th September 1986. Side one opened with Hollywood Beyond’s ‘South Africa’ before the (at the time in the UK) exclusive Cocteau Twins track, ‘Orange Appled’, while side two features The Fall, with ‘Lucifer Over Lancashire’ (Alternative Version) and Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction with ‘High Priest of Love’ (Demo Version).
Interestingly, ‘Orange Appled’ would appear on the US 12″ EP version of the ‘Love’s Easy Tears’ EP… (Thanks to Lieutenant 030 for these pics of the 7″ EP.)
LP / CD: Various Artists: ‘Womad Talking Book Volume Three: An Introduction To Europe’ (1986, WOMAD Records, WOMAD 005 / WOMCD 005)
This WOMAD compilation album contains an exclusive version of ‘Pink Orange Red’, noticeably different from the version on the ‘Tiny Dynamine’ 12″ EP. Shown here is the CD version – I think this actually came a few years later than the LP, but I am not certain – the album I think dates from early October 1986, I think.
7″/12″ ‘Love’s Easy Tears’ (4AD, AD 610 / BAD 610)
The band’s one and only single release of the year, its UK release date was Monday 13th October and was originally in 7″ and 12″ forms only in the UK, the 7″ with two tracks, the 12″ also featuring an additional track by way of ‘Sigh’s Smell Of Farewell’. American releases got an extra track though.
Its sound was huge, the lead track in particular (for which there is also a promo video available [YouTube link]), as if the sound from the ‘Treasure’ era and the 1985 EPs that had been set aside for ‘Victorialand’ and its minimalism was back and let loose once more like a rocket from a bottle.
7″ single – Tracklisting:
- Love’s Easy Tears (3’36”)
- Those Eyes, That Mouth (3’38”)
12″ single – Tracklisting:
- Love’s Easy Tears (3’36”)
- Those Eyes, That Mouth (3’38”)
- Sighs Smell Of Farewell (3’34”)
The US 12″ release on the Relativity label came with an extra track, by way of ‘Orange Appled’ added as track two on side one, the track that in the UK was given away free on the Melody Maker ‘Vinyl Conflict 2‘ 7″ EP. As well as 12″, the EP was also issued on cassette and CD formats by Relativity.
All four tracks were also present by the time of the CD single re-issue in the UK, initially as part of the box set but also separately – but that will be covered in 1991…
LP / Cassette / CD: Harold Budd, Elizabeth Fraser, Robin Guthrie, Simon Raymonde: ‘The Moon And The Melodies’ (4AD, CAD 611 / CADC 611 / CAD 611 CD)
First released Monday 10th November 1986, not under the banner of Cocteau Twins and Harold Budd, as might have been expected (at least commercially) as such but with the individual names of each contributor. Another wonderful record but much more diverse, with an equal mix of recognisably Cocteau Twins, rhythmic tracks and quieter, more reflective pieces. One of the tracks, ‘Memory Gongs’, would also feature on Harold Budd’s own album from 1986, ‘Lovely Thunder’, under the title of ‘Flowered Knife Shadows (For Simon Raymonde)’.
- Sea, Swallow Me (3’09”)
- Memory Gongs (7’28)
- Why Do You Love Me? (4’52”)
- Eyes Are Mosaics (4’10”)
- She Will Destroy You (4’18”)
- The Ghost Has No Home (7’36”)
- Bloody And Blunt (2’13”)
- Ooze Out And Away, Onehow (3’39”)
An interview/article with Harold Budd in the December 1986 ‘Sound On Sound’ magazine:
The beautiful, isolated tranquility of this record (Lovely Thunder) was achieved during an intense period of creativity in Budd’s life, for it was part-recorded with the Cocteau Twins while he was working with them on their album The Moon and the Melodies. In fact, both projects were recorded side by side in the Spring of this year and the crossovers were so close that two Cocteaus’/Budd tracks – ‘Flowered Knife Shadows’ and ‘Valse Pour Le Fin Du Temps’ appear on Lovely Thunder. These cuts prove that the marriage was made in heaven, each artist complementing the other: Budd’s slow, graceful beauty enriching the Cocteau Twins’ mesh of sound; their forceful personality dramatising Budd’s, sometimes, fragile piano.
Budd is questioned in more detail about the work with the Cocteau Twins:
Q: Was collaborating with the Cocteau Twins much different from working with Brian Eno? Will you be collaborating with others in the future?
“It wasn’t terribly different from working with Brian. The result with the Cocteau Twins is that the album The Moon and the Melodies isn’t really a Cocteau Twins album and it’s not really a Harold Budd album; but it’s something that would have been impossible without those four people. Robyn Guthrie (Cocteau Twins’ guitarist) did the production and Liz Fraser (vocalist) was involved after the instrumental tracks had been laid down. She selected the tracks she could work with and did it after the fact.
You see by collaborating with them and Brian Eno I’m seriously working with the best there is. This forces me to come up to their standards which means you can’t slack off. It has to be total concentration all the time which invariably makes for much better music. Now I know Jon Hassell very well, he’s a great artist, and I’d love to collaborate with him. In fact, Jon and I have talked about this and at some point it’s going to happen. It would be like going into the studio without any pre-conceived notions about what the music is going to be like, just this immense metaphysical trust.”
The album was recorded in the Spring of 1986 and was the first to be recorded at the studio the band had set up in North Acton, London. It was referred to as ‘Smash Palace’ in some discussion about its genesis in an article, Cocteau Construction, from the December 1985 issue of One Two Testing magazine available online courtesy of the wonderful Mu:zines website. Having been through a number of recording studios and the frustrations often encountered, having a studio of their own was a desirable step and with help from members of Dif Juz in the construction/fit-out of it. Another name to recognise is Lincoln Fong, who had first been introduced to the band in 1984 while mixing the track ‘Ivo’ – at that time he was working at Guerilla Studios, but would move on and go on to be a long-time collaborator with the band, principally in the studio.
Once again, no major differences with the cassette version but another splendid interpretation and version of the artwork suited to the cassette format and once again thanks to avid cassette collector Lieutenant 030 for these photos of this format.
The first time that a CD edition of a Cocteau Twins related album came out at the time of the original release, the adverts of the period providing catalogue numbers for all three formats. Pictured here is a slightly later edition (as evidenced by the bar code, missing on the original edition).