curious question is raised. What exactly do you ‘remaster’ when reissuing a Cocteau Twins album? I’m far from an expert on the subject, but the process usually seems to focus on creating greater clarity. In which case, did Robin Guthrie have the unenviable task of adding limpidity to a record essentially grounded in swooping, swirly ambiguity? Whatever the answer, Treasure certainly sounds great. Better yet, it sounds fantastic in the bathroom. I recommend listening with your head underwater, to experience the Cocteau Twins as a fish might. For added realism you can attempt to forget every bar of music as soon as it passes. Whilst you drift into a watery slumber, I shall steal your record collection. Oh ho, the perfect crime!
It’s not, of course. The perfect crime would involve stabbing someone with an icicle. No murder weapon once it melts, you see? I bet Jonathan Creek has already used that idea though, the accursed, curly-permed detective. Fortunately, I have the soothing, opening tones of “Ivo” to dampen my rage. Remastering didn’t magically turn Liz Fraser’s lyrics into rational sense, but to do so would break their spell. Although snatches of recognisable speech are sometimes audible, these are not vocals which exist as part of our world. They’re channelled through some kind of faraway cloud kingdom, where communication is distilled to brief glimpses of untainted emotion and social status is determined by ownership of the most digital effect pedals. A kaleidoscope of oral delights; from charmingly quaint “peep-oh / peep-oh” sounds, to indefinable cries of desire/rage/confusion (personal interpretation plays a crucial role).
Twisting amongst these soaring audio deliveries like especially lively serpents are a variety of inventive guitar lines. Inevitably fed through innumerable places of digital trickery, they create moments of startling elegance; the delicate introduction to “Aloysius” replicating the freshness of a dew-swathed spring morning. “Beatrix”, another stand-out moment, could be the ancient strains of a lonely jester’s lute in an echoing medieval sanctum. And now, just as convincingly, we find ourselves in darkness; stepping cautiously alongside lapping ocean waves, gripped by an unseen disquiet (“Otterley”).
Somewhat unexpectedly, for a record which finds itself floating for long periods, are the occasional eardrum-bothering bursts from a reverb-heavy drum machine. The Twins clearly studied at the Sisters of Mercy school of drum programming, as “Persephone” and “Amelia” storm along with an unstoppable rumble and clatter. For every flash of beauty, there is a hint of anger; a dash of violence.
Treasure captures an isolated moment in time. Perhaps several moments. Perhaps several parts of the same moment. Feelings ebb and flow, hinted emotions form pictures which bleed into further images; only to sparkle and fade. Listen in the bathroom, it’s the only way to stay sane.