Record Reviews – What’s New at 4AD
If you haven’t taken time to check out the world of 4AD, now is the perfect chance. England’s small but powerful label is very busy this fall with a whole plethora of new releases and concert tours—many of the bands not having been in America before. 4AD has always been an innovator in the musical world, signing bands like Bauhaus, The Birthday Party, Throwing Muses and even Bulgarian Voices.
Check out some of their other offerings:
Dead Can Dance – Avion
Don’t be frightened by their name. Dead Can Dance contains versions of songs from the 14th and 16th centuries as well as original pieces of interpretations of the same period. There is plenty of Latin text and sound influences ranging from Gregorian chants to chamber music and bagpipes. Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard, the core of the band, take equal turns with the vocals. As always, Brendan’s songs are strong and fervent, his vocals lean and sharp.
His singing rings especially true on songs “Fortune Presents Gifts Not According To The Book” and “Black Sun.” Lisa Gerrard shows off her vocal talent in languages dead and living alike. Since their first hit, “frontier,” Lisa has shown that whatever the language and culture. Dead Can Dance takes pieces of time and history and mixes them together, creating new worlds out of old and piecing together dreams out of word and song.
Cocteau Twins – Heaven Or Las Vegas
Having a baby changes people. When two of those people lead a band that’s always been at the forefront of innovation, then you can expect to feel that change in their music. Heaven Or Las Vegas showcases a more mature Cocteau Twins, the proud parent of a baby daughter. Liz Frazer’s vocals are deeper and , partly due to the fact that she was pregnant during much of the recording. The album was released on the first birthday of Liz and Robin Guthrie’s daughter and is a fitting tribute with a material edge on it, a feeling of post-modern lullabies. “Wolf At The Breast” has lyrics such as “My baby’s cry” and the title is an obvious reference to motherhood. “Pitch The Baby” also brings to mind visions of paternal concern. Other titles are more Cocteau-esque such as “Frotzeplitic,” “Iceblink luck,” “Frou-Frou Foxes in Midsummer Fires,” as well as the two fabulous b-sides to the “Iceblink Luck” single, “Watchlar” and “Mizake The Mizan.” The accompanying music is still ethereal and surrealistic as always, a trademark of the Cocteau Twins and the 4AD label in general. Liz sings almost intelligibly now, her language reflecting the overall growth of the band. Lyrics are somewhat discernible but still leave room for doubt and interpretation, fueling the desire to listen over and over again meaning from them. When it comes right down to the choosing, I’ll take Las Vegas or Heaven any day.
His Name Is Alive – Livonia
In the World of 4AD, His Name Is Alive would live on the same side of town as Dead Can Dance and Cocteau Twins, but closer to This Mortal Coil—maybe on the other side of the tracks, “where wild things were once.”
On first listen, this latest addition to the 4AD family sounds simplistic and barren. A layer of disembodied voices floating over a deserted musical wasteland. But on closer scrutiny, the background is alive, squirming with sound, noise and music. It moves with unrelenting fervor, not distracting from the voices but intertwining them, crawling on top of them and over them and through them. Vocals and sounds combine in haunting melodies, ghostly epiphanies of inspiration—”The darkest dreams / are the ones that come true / and are given away / caught between me and you.” Flesh and phantom inhabit this album, never know what is real and what is a dream. “I dreamed that one had died / in a stranger place / they had nailed the boards / over the face.” His Name Is Alive are the fresh immortals, trapped titans, fighting to free themselves, “dying out and leaving home.” Step into the otherworldliness of Livonia, no longer found in Michigan, but in another dimension. “We may only once divide us / pain and darkness deep inside us.”
Pixies – “Dig For Fire”
This is the second single off the Pixies Bossanova album. Black Francis talks/sings his way through the verse as only he can. He is the epic court poet spinning yarns for our entertainment. Joined on the chorus by Kim Deal, the earnestness with which he tells his tale is apparent as they “Dig For Fire.” Pixies’ guitars are brash and the drums are steady as the tale unfolds. “Are you looking for the motherload?”Francis queries. “I’m digging for fire.” “Velvety Instrumental Version” “Winterlong” is a ballad sung by Francis and Deal, with the familiar acoustic guitar strumming and the insane, manic crunch of Joey Santiago playing leads “I’ve seen him play guitar as well. ‘Santo’ is a return to the days of Surfer Rosa and Come On Pilgrim, as the Pixies take up their second language singing again in Spanish, reminiscent of Francis’ days spent in Puerto Rico. It is a raunchy, mostly acoustic number, with Deal droning in the background, “Santo…Santo.”
Lush – Gala
If you already have the two singles and EP, the Lush album may be a bit of a disappointment $10.99 for two new songs (or one new song if you already have the Melody Make/Rough Trade compilation). Otherwise, this is a chance to save yourself 40 dollars and finally enjoy all the sugar-coated candy stains of Lush on one disc. Produced by Robin Guthrie of Cocteau Twins, Lush has the same ethereal sound, but with more intricate guitars and heavier melodies. If cotton candy was still soft and sticky but weighed the same as lead, it would sound like Lush. The new song, a remake of “Hey Hey Helen” could very well be mistaken for a Lush song. Just like their version of “Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep” (on the Alvin Lives in Lead compilation), Lush takes the music and pulls it like taffy until it’s soft and chewy but still full of substance and loaded with sweetness (and light). Even after owning all the other Lush stuff, it’s still well worth the money spent.