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4.6 out of 5 stars
Victorialand
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
I cannot rate this album higher, nobody has done a soundscape that compares... For me there has never been a singer that tops Liz Fraser for pure out-of-this-worldiness when it comes to alien-speak. The voice of an angel? Do me a favour and don't seek any words, there aren't any, but that's the beauty... No message. Listening to Oomingmak, I am reminded of driving across Ireland to my homeland of Co Mayo, it makes me picture a Mintsrel's Gallery in a huge vaulted cathedral.. Hearing The Thiner The Air and I wonder if there was ever an operatic singer to better Miss Fraser, for someone who claims to have never had any formal training, it's an inspiration to us all. Everyone should hear this album, it is glorious in every sense of the word. This album has stayed with me since it's release, and will forever and ever amen. I want to buy a copy for everyone I know, just so they can experience what I have known.. How's that for a recommendation?
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 12 December 2002
In my opinion by far and away the best of the Cocteau Twin's albums. I prefer 'Otherness' and 'The Moon and the Melodies' but the former is only an e.p and the latter a collaboration listed as the work of Elizabeth Fraser, Robin Guthrie, Simon Raymonde and Harold Budd, not the Cocteau's.
From the first guitar note the music pulls you into a gorgeous aural bath. A gently strummed guitar drifts so elegantly from your speakers that it instantly slows you down to the album's unique pace and drags you deep into the soundscape that is slowly unfolding before you. After a minute a saxophone enters the fray with meditative phrases that just about manage to avoid evoking new age nightmares, before Guthrie's unmistakable chiming guitar makes a subdued entry. The music is so embracing you barely notice that nearly three minutes have elapsed before Fraser's incredible voice takes hold of proceedings and the song hits full stride.
Once you've been pulled in their is no escape. I cannot remember a time when I have consciously chosen to stop the album or just play the first track. The music drifts by at its own pace and it forces you to follow suit. Given how minimal the album is - being focused almost exclusively on Guthrie's guitar and Frasers's vocals, with only the occasional splash of percussion, sax or piano - it is remarkable how engaging a listening experience Victorialand actually is. It's just so warm and comforting it's as hard to leave as a warm bed on a cold early morning.
The album works beautifuly. It takes you to a special place and has a lovely fluidity about it. When the particularly gorgeous final song 'The Thinner the Air' suddenly closes in on itself you feel sad to be leaving the place the music has taken you, like you did as a kid when you had to leave the place you had just fallen in love with on some family holiday.
Victorialand is a wonderful album that strips down the Cocteau's sound to reveal a pure beauty unmatched on any of their other releases. Furthermore, if a better hangover cure exists I'm certainly not aware of it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Victorialand is very much a product of CTs etherial phase. Gentle guitar figures, few if any drums, and Frazer's angelic tones. Maybe not the obvious choice to introduce yourself to the band (you would be better off with "Heaven or Las Vegas", "Blue Bell Knoll" or even "Treasure" for that matter).
Here we find them at their dreamiest it is the perfect companion to the twinned EPs "Tiny Dynamine" and "Echoes in a Shallow Bay". This is from that period when the group was reduced to a duo of Frazer and Guthrie. It has a sparser sound than we are used to, and maybe takes a few more plays to really 'get'.
Victorialand is not, really, a full scale album. It is a mini album weighing in at just under 33 minutes. The original vynil version played at 45rpm. But those 33 minutes contain some of the best music for daydreaming ever written. The purity of sound makes it ideal for CD...
Buy it and prepare to lose yourself in reverie....
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Speaking as someone who would have crawled across broken glass using my tongue as a propeller just to hear a new Cocteau Twins album I was a bit disappointed when I first heard Victorialand. It lacks the epic peaks and troughs of their previous album, the magnificent Treasure and indeed the three E.P,s released between Treasure and this album Aikea-Guinea,Tiny Dynamine / Echoes in a Shallow Bay. With bassist Simon Raymonde off recording on This Mortal Coil's Filigree & Shadow and the faithful old drum machine sat in the corner gathering dust Victorialand is a lighter airier album than previous efforts. It lacks the incandescent glories of their best work but once you get used to the fact that you are listening to a calmer( lazy calmer?) and more reflective work than the giddy extraterrestrial pop of old you realise this is an extraordinarily beautiful album .
The lack of percussion and the sculptural booming bass lines means there is far more space and tracts of spatial calm Richard Thomas of Dif Juz fills in some of this with his woozy saxophone and Tablas but mostly it's the glistening guitar refrains of Robin Guthrie and of course the extraordinary voice of Elizabeth Fraser that give Victorialand it's exceptional ambience.
First track "Lazy Calm " glides the emollient saxophone over exquisitely plucked guitar notes and the serene vocals that twitter for the chorus of sorts. "Fluffy Tufts" may be a song title so twee it would make a children's TV presenter blanch but it is a truly gorgeous track with the multi-tracked vocals pirouetting over cascading notes that briefly recall the effulgent rhapsodies of Treasure. Even a more austere track like "Whales Tails " is truly dazzling, though in more precise structured manner..at least till Fraser's vocals gambol away briefly ."Oomingmak" brazenly highlights Fraser's amazing vocal range to wondrous effect and even if "Little Spacey " is a little too waltz like the faultless exhortations of "Feet Like Fins" and the shimmering fateful tones of "The Thinner The Air " means the album is book-ended by a musical virtuosity so very rare for it's stop you in your tracks beauty.
The album title refers to the part of Antarctica known as Victoria Land ,named after Queen Victoria (and forming the British claim to the continent, currently dormant under international treaty). Several song titles seem to have polar themes which gives it added interest for me, an avid student of polar exploration.."How to Bring a Blush to the Snow" is pretty obvious. "Feet-Like Fins", is in all probability about penguins. "Throughout the Dark Months of April and May", could be about the beginning of the South Polar winter, the obvious "Whales Tails" about errr the tails of whales and "Oomingmak" is an Inuit name for the Musk Ox. "The Thinner the Air" could allude to the fact that much of the continent is more than 3 kilometres above sea level and at this altitude air becomes noticeably thinner.
An intoxicating drift into ambient territory Victorialand was followed by The Harold Budd collaboration The Moon And The Melodies. Which further confirmed this coast towards the outer extremes of mood music .I love ambient music ,despite my cursory initial reservations I was always going to love this album. Rather than ravel the listener in an exhilarating miasma of thrumming pop/rock textures Victorialand lowers them into a idyllic ocean of lapping eddies. With the Cocteau's the results are invariably the same.. ..bliss unconfined.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 31 May 2010
This is a wonderful little album that showcases the sound of a truly unique band indulging their weird side for all that it's worth. The soundscapes are much sparser than on previous (and later) outings with little or no percussion on most of the tracks, but that just adds to the effect. The guitars sparkle, swoon and swirl with magic and Liz Frazer's achingly lovely vocals float on top of them like rays of light from a new-born star. Galaxies glow, undulate, fade to black and explode into life again. This is trippy stuff even by the standards of this trippiest of bands, and it sounds like nothing else in the world. Describing how the Cocteaus sound is like trying to explain the taste of ice cream to someone who's never eaten it; it's nigh-on impossible, and all the usual words like 'heavenly' and 'ethereal' that get thrown around so often with reference to them just don't do the sound justice. If you've never heard the band before then this probably isn't the best place to start (try 'Four Calendar Cafe' for something slightly more 'conventional' or 'Treasure' if you want to get a feel for the early stuff) but if you've already got those albums then you really should think about buying this one as well. Blissful stuff.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 3 September 2013
I have to admit my embarrassment... Having just acquired this on vinyl, and not having heard it before, although being a big Cocteau fan - and owning the rest on vinyl already... I have just listened to side one thinking "my, Liz's voice is a bit deep on this track, and this, and this one too......" Stupidly I did not notice the little 45 on the label. Yes it is a 45rpm album. And I listened to the whole side on 33 rpm.
What I can say is, it sounds a million times better on 45! Very good album, up there with my personal favourite of Treasure - you can't go wrong here, if you already have a soft spot for the twins output. Well recommended.... On the right speed of course.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 February 2008
Victorialand is an album that still manages to sound absolutely alien - even when analysed within the context of the Cocteau's career - with it's mixture of ethereal chamber-pop and a style of music that seems both medieval and futuristic in equal measures; building upon the sound and style of previous albums like Head Over Heels and Treasure, whilst simultaneously pushing things forwards into previously unexplored musical territories. The overall sound of the album here is much more lulled and minimal than on any of their previous records, with the departure of regular bassist Simon Raymonde leading to a collaboration with musician Richard Thomas and a greater reliance on more exotic instrumental arrangements, for example, the lengthy bursts of saxophone on opening track Lazy Calm, and the intoxicating use of tablas during the beautifully-titled, Feet-like Fins.

Often this album is referred to as the band's "acoustic-album", which is a little miss leading, as the music here hardly brings to mind MTV's Unplugged... however, I suppose the tag is justifiable to an extent, with Victorialand certainly sounding less rock-like than previous albums. Instead, the music seems to reflect the artwork (and vice-versa... often the case with the Cocteau's)... that muddy melange of colours and textures, moods and emotions, the vague shapes that seem to make sense the more you analyse them, and so on. It also alludes to that region of Antarctica (so eloquently described by other commentators), with the music having a vast, cold and ethereal feel to it, suggesting space and emotional landscape, rather than the obvious moods and emotions we would normally associate with pop.

The titles of the songs are also a clear indication to the style of music found within, with songs like Fluffy Tufts, Oomingmak and Little Spacey suggesting a beautiful and strange sense of nonsense, which is reflected in Elizabeth Fraser's gorgeous vocal work, which here stretches beyond the normal boundaries of what the human voice should be capable of, and shows a definite influence on performers like Dolores O'Riordan, Alison Goldfrapp and Björk; who can't help but seem inferior in comparison!? Her delivery of words and use of phrasing, which turns the lyrics into babbled cascading gibberish has always been one of the major draws to the Cocteau's sound, with further musical influences seen on later albums like Loveless by My Bloody Valentine (there creating that similar, intoxicating style of alien-pop so prevalent on Cocteau's albums like Treasure, Heaven or Las Vegas and this) and on the first four albums by Icelandic band Sigur Ros.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 19 March 2004
A great album of soothing, totally individual music. The stand-out is Lazy Calm though, which, at some 6 minutes long, is uttely divine from end to end. Worth every penny of the CD price just for that alone - but there are other beauties on here too (Little Spacey is great for example).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 16 July 2009
sooooo beautiful-their most quiet and gentle and least constructed album-written and recorded very fast and poss without the base player simon raymonde-not sure if thats true now after all these yrs-but seem to remeber that might be the case-anyway it has a diff sound and feel to it than most of their material-its very slow,quiet,gentle,calming music-almost like another brian eno's work -it came after moon and the melodies where they wrote and performed an album with harold budd-a very old pianist and philip glass like musician-so maybe that lead to this slightly odd album and its slightlymellow sound-however i love and adore this album-it never bores me as it lacks the nasty simple disco type poppy rythms of heaven or las vegas and i love this album to bits-infact it is def one of their best 3 ever with blue bell knoll and treasure -however it was under appreciated by the public and critics circa 1986 -but its so soft and slow and beautiful-perfection
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
#1 HALL OF FAMEon 28 March 2003
The title should give it all away- Victorialand a region in Antartica, something that you should never be able to put into words but there are a million words for- not all of them in a language simply understood. Victorialand is an initially difficult listen- certainly not as ecstatically instant as Treasure of Blue Bell Knoll. But persistence and late nite listens should change all that...
Following a period where Cocteau Twins began to sound like themselves (rather than an Associates/Banshees sounding band) where they produced such great releases as Pearly Dewdrops Drops, Treasure, Aikea Guinea & Love's Easy Tears, they decided to change their sound (though the acoustic elements of songs like Orange-Appled gave a clue). Stripped back to the original duo of Elizabeth Fraser & Robin Guthrie (Simon Raymonde was doing extensive work on the epic double album 'Filigree&Shadow' by This Mortal Coil), Victorialand is without the by now trademark drum machine sound & chiming infinite bells (most ably demonstrated on Gun Club's 'Breaking Hands', produced by Guthrie the same year as this). The duo are joined by Dif Juz's Richard Thomas- which alters their sound- the opening 'Lazy Calm' has almost a jazz-feel, prior to Fraser's heavenly vocals coming in: extremely distinctive & divine...
Victorialand is one of the most ambient of Cocteau Twins' releases, alongside the follow-up 'The Moon & the Melodies' (released under the 'Budd-Fraser-Guthrie-Raymonde'-moniker)- it is blissedout more than chilled out, the latter term much more a lazy marketing tool for slightly mellow lift muzak.
The songs?- well, the usual style of titles, almost vague- but not far from the language used in Joyce's 'Finnegans Wake': Feet-Like Fins, Oomingmak & How to Bring a Blush to the Snow (not quite up to the peak of their titles, such as Ella Megalast Burls Forever or The Itchy-Glowbo Blow). Throughout the Dark Months of April and May is another highlight, fitting into that perfect soundscape evident on other such 80s releases as 'Ambient 4: On Land','Sulk', 'Burning Blue Soul', 'A/Z' ,'Spirit of Eden' & parts of AR Kane's 'I'.
Victorialand may lack the epic alien pop sound of albums like Treasure, Blue Bell Knoll & Heaven or Las Vegas, but it certainly remains a joy- which once penetrated is not easily shaken off. The remastering brings out this, probably the most subtle of Cocteau Twins releases & the cover by 23 Envelope is amazing (really, they ought to release these for the public to buy- I love the idea of someone having a Cocteau Twins cover for their room, but not necessarily knowing who they were!). Anyone who enjoys recent music by Sigur Ros, Low, Francoiz Breut, Yu-Ra, Violet Indiana- many of the latter found on Simon Raymonde's Bella-Union label (see 'At Least You Can Die with a Smile on Your Face) should adore this reissue. Words just aren't enough...
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