12/4/15 – This Mortal Coil – Late Night – 1991

Video Of The Day

Song Of The Day

This Mortal Coil-  Caroline Crawley LateNight 2Between 1984 and 1991 This Mortal Coil released three moody masterpieces, It’ll End In Tears (1984), Filigree And Shadow (1986) and Blood (1991). The brainchild of 4AD ‘s co-founder and tastemaker Ivo Watts-Russell, the plan seems to have been to take lost classics from the sixties and seventies and reinterpret them within the circle of his arty contemporary musical friends, mainly on the 4AD label, Watts-Russell acting as musical director. The releases kept the 4AD tradition of ‘album cover as art’ care of Vaughn Oliver from design gurus 23 Envelope.

Here we have Caroline Crawley from Bournemouth’s Shelleyan Orphan singing Syd Barrett’s Late Night from Barrett’s 1970 album, The Madcap Laughs. The experiment was mostly successful, the songs became atmospheres of melancholy and sadness whilst creating odd pairings such as Kim Deal and Tanya Donneley from The Pixies and Throwing Muses/Belly with Chris Bell’s You And Your Sister on Blood and Howard Devoto with Alex Chilton’s Holocaust on It’ll End In Tears. But although the albums maintain a similar mood they are also wonderfully eclectic in the choice of material and some pairings are marriages made in heaven such as Liz Fraser singing Tim Buckley’s Song To The Siren.

These albums were a tremendous influence on me in my late twenties and into my thirties as I played them to death. In fact I like them so much that I could write an essay on every song they released (don’t worry). If you haven’t heard these albums, Monday morning 8AM whether it be the record store, E Bay, Discogs, Amazon or Spotify – they are absolutely essential listening.







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6 Responses to “12/4/15 – This Mortal Coil – Late Night – 1991”

  1. simone April 12, 2015 at 6:29 pm #

    Big fan of TMC and a fantastic version of Late Night filled with such tristesse. I love how it concentrates on Caroline’s voice, bringing it to the fore, and there is just that white noise humming in the background which only comes forward itself until the dying moments of the song.
    I’ve always loved TMC’s version of Buckley’s Song to the Siren too. Having grown up with Buckley’s albums in our house I really embraced their cover as a teenager in 1983 when it was released. It is right up there with the original in my opinion.
    I also enjoyed the Shellyan Orphan version of Buckley’s Buzzin’ Fly too.
    A marvellous and soothing way to start my Monday morning Marty – thank you.

  2. delay plus chorus April 12, 2015 at 7:01 pm #

    What a great surprise! It’s posts like this that make me wish we were all in the same room somewhere, relishing and tripping on these records together, turning over the sleeves in our hands and soaking up the artwork and reliving the first moments of discovery and the many great times they soundtracked. What a fantastic experience that would be, to revel in these songs and sounds in appreciative company. It’s been a while.

    Ivo & John Fryer were so thoughtful in the songs they chose to cover with TMC, and as you observe, so shrewd in who they chose to perform each one. Dominic Appleton’s vocal turns on the Pearls Before Swine, Gene Clark and Colourbox (!) covers on the second album are breathtaking by any measure. But pretty much everyone’s performance was brilliant in its own way.

    I also owe these records a debt of gratitude for turning me on by reference to so much unfamiliar music, and that’s the real mark of a great cover. I wrote an essay a while back about how TMC was my gateway drug to discovering Big Star and Chris Bell, whose records weren’t widely known or even available as they are now — they were still lost masterpieces, waiting to be brought into the light. Those discoveries alone were such a gift, and there were others as well.

    Suffice it to say that all three TMC records had a huge impact on me, and I’d rank “Filigree and Shadow” as one of my favorite 10 albums ever. The arrangements and track sequencing are astonishing; it’s an album you literally disappear into, unlike anything else I’ve ever heard.

    It’s almost sundown here, now and I know what I’ll be listening to through the evening. Cheers, and thank you.

    • delay plus chorus April 12, 2015 at 7:02 pm #

      PS: You SHOULD write an essay about each one, or at least a few more. These albums are unbelievably rich in their offerings.

  3. AlienRendel April 12, 2015 at 8:45 pm #

    Classic albums. I was young enough when they came out (teenager) that they introduced me to a lot of these songs.

  4. Woody April 12, 2015 at 11:57 pm #

    Thank you ! Another band I never listened to when they were active. This is so good and as often so much better than most of todays rubbish.

  5. delay plus chorus April 13, 2015 at 6:13 am #

    One thing that ought to be mentioned is what an immersive and self-contained little world 4AD created during these years.

    TMC represented a sort of grand unified statement of Ivo’s musical vision, but the in-house graphics work by 23 Envelope created a remarkably consistent visual and typographic aesthetic as well, from year to year and one release to the next. You could pick up a record in a shop during this time, look at the cover art and go “oh, this is on 4AD.” And know that it was worth a listen, without even knowing anything about the band. How many labels can that be said about?

    This “Late Night” video made me think of it. I don’t know who directed it, but it was obviously quite against type of what was going on in the medium at that time. The 4AD/V23 aesthetic was like that generally.

    Opinions differ on when the label’s “golden age” ended; generously I’d say it ran through about 1992, when some of the bands most closely associated with the label began to shop themselves elsewhere, and those that came along after maybe didn’t have the same style or gravity, and anyway times and people change and that’s why they call it “a moment.” I’d say Red House Painters and Lisa Germano were the label’s last really great discoveries, but again, views will differ.

    In any event, during that window, say ’82 through the end of the decade and a skitch into the next, 4AD was unlike anything else going.

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