Ever since 1997 and the formal split of the Cocteau Twins there has been a rather large hole in music that has needed filling. They are sorely missed and the re-emergence of Simon Raymonde pairing up with American singer Stephanie Dosen in this new band "Snowbird" is about the next best thing that could be hoped for. The former Cocteau Twins bassist has of course been hard at work on his brilliant Bella Union Label the home of some of the greatest music over the past 15 years (various members of Midlake, Jonathan Wilson and Radiohead's rhythm section also appear on the album). His partnership with Dosen has been borne out of this work where in 2007 Raymonde produced her debut album where he readily admits he was "entranced by the crystalline beauty of Dosen's voice".
Raymonde also confesses that he would find it odd if this album "didn't remind people of the Cocteau Twins". Throw in a splash of This Mortal Coil and the circle is squared. Nowhere is this more pronounced on the lovely "All Wishes are Ghosts" where all that is missing is Liz Frazier. But let us not overplay this hand. "Snowbird" is album primarily about mood, ambience and very elegant dreamy pop music which stands in own right with some songs that should be freely available on the national curriculum. The widely trailed "Porcelain" harks back to the wintry feel of Kate Bush's "50 Words for Snow" and is a sumptuous ghostly piano ballad with Dosen's vocal pitch perfect. Sometimes the sheer loveliness of the album is its biggest problem and it veers closely towards the road marked "whimsy" with "We Carry White Mice" the worse culprit. The balance is addressed however with the splendid pounding synth opener "I Have Heard the Owl Call My Name" a piece of dainty pure pop bliss. Similarly the plaintive "Charming Birds from the Trees" is hugely enjoyable. If there is a complaint perhaps the album lacks one or two killer songs that could push it beyond a minority taste to something that would engage a wider audience. Repeated listens will undoubtedly address this and in the lush sweep of"Amelia" there are stirrings of greatness. The double album comprises a complete re-mix by RX Gibbs entitled "Luna" who gives the music a more dub and bass dimension which is a very smart counterpart to the lighter shades of "Moon". In this setting the aforementioned "Amelia" extends to a six minute song with a pulsating dance beat! In short some of the mixes work better than others but it is nice to have the choice.
If "Snowbird" does little else than send the listener back to Cocteau Twins albums like "Treasure" or "Heaven Or Las Vegas" it will have done sterling work. But that is to do the album a dis-service since there is much here to be cherished and if you love to sit back and contemplate the beauty of the world this is a very appropriate soundtrack.
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