This Mortal Coil - Blood - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

This Mortal Coil - Blood

by Jeff Penczak Rating:9 Release Date:2018-10-26
This Mortal Coil - Blood
This Mortal Coil - Blood

The final installment in the 4AD trilogy is arguably the best, not least of all because the label’s best singers, the Rutkowski sisters sing most of the tracks. Ivo apparently agreed with me, claiming they were “the heart and soul of Blood’. The fun begins with the haunting ambient ‘Lacemaker’. Co-written by 4AD head Ivo Watts-Russell, engineer/producer John Fryer, and future Banshee cellist Martin McCarrick (Ivo named it after one of his favourite films), it is an ethereal piece full of swaying, neo-classical strings, played by McCarrick, Sonia Slaney and Sally Herbert from the Electra Strings, and Jocelyn Pook in one of her earliest assignments. (The ensemble perform on over half a dozen tracks here, and Pook would go on to create the equally eerie soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick’s final film, Eyes Wide Shut.) Another plus this time around is that Ivo eschewed most of his 4AD stable for outside contributors, including poignant interpretations of Syd Barrett’s ‘Late Night’, The Apartments’, ‘Mr. Somewhere’, and Mary Margaret O’Hara’s ‘Help Me Lift You Up’ by the late cofounder of Shellyan Orphan, Caroline Crawley, who passed away two years ago. Ivo said that her performance of the Barrett tune left her physically shaking in the studio because “she just felt really good” by the time she finished.

Alison Limerick returns from previous outings to add her creepy, crawly wordless vocals to Watts-Russell and Fryer’s ‘Andialu’. Another major change is the predominance of tracks written by Watts-Russell and Fryer, giving the album a sense of what 4AD label biographer Martin Aston calls “crushing melancholia”. Ivo had been working on the album for the past five years, which gave him time to hone his songwriting skills. Ivo also tones down his dependence on songs from his mental mix tape of all-time favourite artists, but still selects wonderful rarities by the likes of Gene Clark, two Chris Bell tracks (a stunningly delicate ‘You and Your Sister’, featuring surprisingly little girl vocals from Kim Deal and Tanya Donnelly, an odd pairing considering both sets of sisters recorded for 4AD – Kim and Kelly Deal and Tanya and Kristen Hersh and a rathered disheveled ‘I Am The Cosmos’ from Deirdre and the returning Dominic Appleton, the latter the only male voice this time around), and the ubiquitous and always reliable Limerick and Deirdre Rutkowski’s unforgettable take on Randy California’s ‘Nature’s Way’. He also gives a nod to more recent composers, via songs originally recorded by Rain Parade (a rather tentative run through ‘Carolyn’s Song’ that may have you running for the original) and Rodney Crowell (a whispered, dreamy take on ‘’Til I Gain Control Again’ by 4AD stalwart Heidi Berry and the Rutkowskis), in addition to the aforementioned Apartments and O’Hara tracks.

The Rutkowskis also deliver one of the finest interpretations of the holocaust ballad ‘I Come and Stand At Every Door’, a near a capella heartstopper that wrings every emotional nuance out of the lyric, and Deirdre stops everyone in their tracks with her tearful rendition of Clan of Xymox’s Pieter Nooten’s thousand-yard-stare, ‘Several Times’.

As with all of the TMC releases, not everything warrants repeat listens. I could have done without the schizophrenic ‘Bitter’, which is too anarchic and eclectic for its own good, the silly, sick kid coughing and ga-ga, goo gooing its way through ‘Baby Ray Baby’, and ‘Ruddy and Wretched’ is nothing more than an excuse for guitarist Jim Williams to test all his fx pedals. But these are minor blips on this essential artifact from the world’s finest indie. It lost its way after Ivo moved to America and sold the label to Warners, leaving clueless kids in charge of A&R, leading to nonsensical signings of hip hop and techno bands and practically destroying the reputation that Ivo worked so hard to establish. But aside from Mojave 3, Red House Painters, and Camera Obscura, the label lost its cache with the cult of fans who often bought an album simply because it was on 4AD. Economics ruined the dream, but these three This Mortal Coil reissues (redundant though they are) are back to demonstrate the dream never fades.




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