Elizabeth Fraser

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Elizabeth Fraser
Elizabeth Frazer.jpg
Background information
Birth name Elizabeth Davidson Fraser
Born (1963-08-29) 29 August 1963 (age 50)
Grangemouth, Scotland
Genres Ethereal wave, dream pop, post-punk, gothic rock, ambient, trip hop
Occupations Singer
Years active 1979–present
Associated acts Cocteau Twins
This Mortal Coil
Massive Attack
Peter Gabriel
Yann Tiersen
Craig Armstrong
Website Official website

Elizabeth Davidson Fraser (born 29 August 1963) [1] is a Scottish singer best known as the vocalist for the alternative rock group Cocteau Twins.

Fraser has a soprano vocal range.[2] She is as well known for her perfectionism and reclusive nature as she is for her voice.[3] She was described by critic Jason Ankeny as "an utterly unique performer whose swooping, operatic vocals relied less on any recognizable language than on the subjective sounds and textures of verbalized emotions,"[4] Fraser's distinctive singing earned much critical praise. She was once described as "the voice of God."[5] Fraser's lyrics range from straightforward English to semi-comprehensible sentences and abstract mouth music. For some recordings, Fraser has said that she used foreign words without knowing what they meant – the words acquired meaning for her only as she sang them.[6]

Music career[edit]

Fraser and Cocteau Twins[edit]

Elizabeth Fraser was the vocalist and lyricist in Cocteau Twins, a group founded in 1981 by Robin Guthrie and Will Heggie. At the time, she was 17 years old, and had never thought of herself as a singer. Guthrie and Heggie noticed her dancing at a club one night, and asked her to join their band.[7] After an on-off phase, the band recorded some tracks which were sent as demos to John Peel and Ivo Watts-Russell of 4AD which led to their being signed by the London-based label and a successful career in music.[8]

Fraser and Guthrie formed a relationship, and in 1989 had a daughter, Lucy Belle. Guthrie liberally used drugs and alcohol throughout the years they were together,[9] and Fraser suffered a nervous breakdown during the recording of Four-Calendar Café.[10] The couple broke up in 1993, but opted to continue a musical relationship until 1998, when Cocteau Twins were finally disbanded.[11]

Fraser had an intense personal relationship with singer Jeff Buckley [5] and recorded a duet with him, "All Flowers In Time Bend Towards The Sun", written by Buckley but never released commercially. She speaks about their relationship in the BBC documentary, Jeff Buckley: Everybody Here Wants You.[12]

Cocteau Twins were due to perform for the North American Coachella Festival on 30 April 2005, but cancelled on 16 March 2005.[13] The decision to cancel was taken by Fraser reportedly because of the emotional distress the putative reunion and pressure to perform caused her.[14][15] Her former Cocteau Twins bandmate Simon Raymonde has since talked publicly about the decision saying that while he respected it, he regretted not being able to walk away with "£1.5 million ($2.5 million) tax-free."[16][17]

Collaborations and guest appearances[edit]

While working as part of Cocteau Twins, Fraser also collaborated with numerous artists. She appeared on 4AD house band This Mortal Coil's first release (along with her Cocteau Twins bandmates) where her contributions included a cover version of Tim Buckley's "Song to the Siren". She provided one-off vocals for acts such as Felt (Primitive Painters), Dif Juz (Extractions LP), The Wolfgang Press, and Ian McCulloch (Candleland).

Since the breakup of Cocteau Twins in 1998, Fraser has sporadically collaborated with a range of performers, including The Future Sound of London (Lifeforms EP), Elliot Goldenthal, Craig Armstrong (The Space Between) and Peter Gabriel (the millennium project OVO). Apart from her Cocteau Twins work she is probably best known for her collaborations with Massive Attack, having recorded three songs for the band's Mezzanine album in 1998 (including the international hit single "Teardrop") and subsequently toured with the band in 2006. She has also contributed to the soundtracks of several films, such as, In Dreams, Cruel Intentions, The Winter Guest and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (also uncredited in the soundtrack of the Fellowship of the Ring Extended Edition DVD), and occasionally appeared as a guest artist on other musicians' projects. In 2005, she appeared on Yann Tiersen's album Les Retrouvailles, singing on two pieces: "Kala" and "Mary".

Solo career[edit]

Aside from her work with other artists, Fraser's solo career has been quiet. In 2000, a white label recording, "Underwater", was released in a limited edition of 200 copies. She contributed a cover version of "At Last I Am Free" (originally by '70s band Chic, covered by Robert Wyatt) on the 2003 album Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before, a celebration of 25 year of Rough Trade Records. In 2004, Fraser was invited to participate in an audio exhibit, Shhh..., at London's Victoria and Albert Museum for which she produced a piece called "Expectant Mood", which has not been made commercially available.[18]

Fraser is reportedly signed to Blanco y Negro Records.[19] In December 2006 NME magazine reported that Fraser's solo album was due for release in early 2007. The album would have contained eight tracks, one of which was to be a cover version. No titles were announced and the album was not released in 2007 as suggested. In June 2012, extracts from Fraser's as yet unreleased album were played on BBC Radio 4.[20]

In November 2009 Fraser released a solo single, "Moses", available on 12" and download through Rough Trade. The single was recorded with Damon Reece and Jake Drake-Brockman, and was a memorial to Jake Drake-Brockman.[21][22]

In August 2012 Fraser performed for two nights as part of the Meltdown Festival at London's Southbank Centre, curated by Antony Hegarty. Prior to the concerts Fraser confirmed that she had assembled an album's worth of material and would showcase these at the event in addition to performing re-interpretations of some Cocteau Twins songs.[3] Fraser also referred to the physical exertion involved in her singing against the wall of sound in many of the Cocteau Twins songs, of which she said it was "like an endurance test. I don't intend to do that again. I've been using my voice more gently."[3] Prior to her appearance at Meltdown, Fraser played a warm-up concert at Bath Pavilion on 4 August.[23]

In addition to Damon Reece on drums and percussion, Fraser’s backing band featured three other former or current members of Spiritualized - Sean Cook (bass and rhythm guitars, also Reece's former bandmate in Lupine Howl), Martin Shellard (guitar, also ex-Magenta), Thighpaulsandra (keyboards, also a former Julian Cope bandmember) – and two backing vocalists (Jo Goldsmith-Eteson and Lucy Potterton, both from The Swingle Singers). Andy Jenks (an original founder member of Alpha) added sonic atmospheres for the concert intro and in between songs. At the concerts, Fraser performed a version of her 2000 single "Underwater" plus the (as-yet unreleased) album songs "Bushey", "Charade", "About Ship", "Enoesque", "Metal" and "Golden Air". She also performed nine Cocteau Twins songs ("Blue Bell Knoll", "Suckling the Mender", "Cherry-Coloured Funk", "Oomingmak", "Pitch the Baby", "Donimo", "Athol-Brose", "Frou Frou Foxes in Midsummer Fires", "Pearly-Dewdrops Drop") and closed the performance with an encore of "Song to the Siren". Former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett made a guest appearance at the London concert, playing nylon-string classical guitar on another new song - a voice-and-guitar duet called "Make Lovely".[24][25][26][27][28]

Reviews of Elizabeth Fraser's appearance at the Royal Festival Hall were mixed.[29][2][30][31] One critic noted that "her new band failed to bring intensity to the Cocteau Twins’ songs".[29] However, other critics praised the emotive strength of her voice, acknowledged that her "bewitching qualities remained intact", that her new work received "as vociferous a response as any of the old stuff" and that she is "a singer in the here and now, not the celestial voice of universal truths."[2][2][31]

Personal life[edit]

Elizabeth Fraser was born in Grangemouth.[32] She lives with her partner, musician Damon Reece (from the band Lupine Howl), in Bristol. She has two daughters, Lucy Belle Guthrie, her daughter by Robin Guthrie, and Lily, her daughter by Damon Reece.

In an interview with The Guardian, Fraser spoke of her life since the break-up of the Cocteau Twins, what prompted her return to the limelight, her approach to making music and her unique voice and said of her live performances "I'm so excited to have made this decision to play. I need that commitment!".[33]

Discography[edit]

With Cocteau Twins[edit]

Main artist[edit]

Singles[edit]

  • Underwater (2000)
    Blanco Y Negro #SAM 00346
  • Moses (2009)
    Rough Trade #RTRADST558

Guest appearances[edit]

Artist Album Track(s) Date Label Catalogue
Massive Attack Mezzanine "Teardrop", "Black Milk" and "Group Four" 1998 Virgin Records
-
Yann Tiersen Les Retrouvailles "Mary", "Kala" 14 June 2005 EMI B000852GIQ
Various artists (compilation) Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before... "At Last I Am Free" (originally by Robert Wyatt) 7 October 2003 Rough Trade RTRADECD100
Howard Shore The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers "Isengard Unleashed" 10 December 2002 Warner Brothers
-
Howard Shore The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring "Lothlórien: The Lament for Gandalf" 20 November 2001 Warner Brothers
-
Peter Gabriel OVO "Downside Up", "Make Tomorrow" 8 August 2000 EMI
-
Elliot Goldenthal; Elizabeth Fraser In Dreams (soundtrack) "Dream Baby" 12 January 1999 EMI
-
Simon Raymonde Blame Someone Else "Worship Me" 1998 Bella Union Bella CD1
Michael Kamen The Winter Guest "Take Me With You" 13 January 1998 Universal
-
Craig Armstrong The Space Between Us "This Love" 24 February 1998 Melankolic
-
The Bathers Sunpowder "Danger in Love", "The Dutch Venus", "Angel on Ruskin", "The Night is Young" 1995 Marina
Moose Live A Little, Love A Lot "Play God" 1995 Play It Again Sam Records BIAS 320 CD
The Future Sound of London Lifeforms [Remixes] EP "Lifeforms 1-5 and 7" 29 July 1994 Astralwerks ASW 6114-2
Medicine Sounds of Medicine "Time Baby 3" 1994 Beggars Banquet ARBCDM 8
Ian McCulloch Mysterio "Heaven's Gate" 1992 Sire Records 9 26684-2
Ian McCulloch Candleland "Candleland" 1989 Sire Records 9 26012-2
Dif Juz Extractions "Love Insane" 1985 4AD CAD 505
Felt Primitive Painters/Cathedral "Primitive Painters" 1985 Cherry Red 12 CHERRY 89
The Wolfgang Press Scarecrow "Respect" 1984 4AD BAD 409

References[edit]

  1. ^ Nick Neyland. "The Cocteau Twins' Liz Fraser Gives Rare Interview | Prefix". Prefixmag.com. Retrieved 2014-04-17. 
  2. ^ a b c d Mugan, Chris (7 August 2012). "Elizabeth Fraser, Royal Festival Hall, London". The Independent. 
  3. ^ a b c Dave Simpson (1 May 2012). "Cocteau Twins' Elizabeth Fraser to perform at Meltdown festival | Music". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 24 June 2012. 
  4. ^ Elizabeth Fraser at AllMusic
  5. ^ a b Dave Simpson (26 November 2009). "Elizabeth Fraser talks about why she finds it too difficult to even think about her old Cocteau Twins bandmates | Music". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 3 April 2012. 
  6. ^ Elizabeth Fraser (2 August 2011). Elizabeth Fraser talks about her lyrics. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  7. ^ "Elizabeth Fraser's website". Elizabethfraser.com. Retrieved 24 June 2012. 
  8. ^ "history|chapter 1: 1982". cocteau twins. Retrieved 24 June 2012. 
  9. ^ "History | chapter 16: 1993". cocteau twins. Retrieved 2014-04-17. 
  10. ^ "Alternative Press - January 1996". cocteau twins. Retrieved 24 June 2012. 
  11. ^ "History". CocteauTwins.com. Retrieved 12 June 2013. 
  12. ^ Jeff Buckley: Everybody Here Wants You at the Wayback Machine (archived 11 August 2003) – BBC 4 feature
  13. ^ "6 Music - Raymonde blames bandmates". BBC. Retrieved 24 June 2012. 
  14. ^ Simpson, Dave (26 November 2009). "Elizabeth Fraser talks about why she finds it too difficult to even think about her old Cocteau Twins bandmates". The Guardian. 
  15. ^ Hunter, Ludovic (2012-08-07). "Meltdown: Elizabeth Fraser, Royal Festival Hall, London". FT.com. Retrieved 2014-04-17. 
  16. ^ "Elizabeth Fraser breaks silence about aborted Cocteau Twins reunion, releases new single | slicing up eyeballs // 80s alternative music, college rock, indie". Slicingupeyeballs.com. 30 November 2009. Retrieved 24 June 2012. 
  17. ^ "The rise of the Moon and an extraordinary musical star". Herald Scotland. 2014-01-09. Retrieved 2014-04-17. 
  18. ^ "Art - Shhh… - Independent Review". DavidByrne.com. 11 May 2004. Retrieved 24 June 2012. 
  19. ^ "Solo album by Cocteau Twins frontwoman Elizabeth Fraser out this spring". Side-line.com. 22 February 1999. Retrieved 24 June 2012. 
  20. ^ "Today - Elizabeth Fraser's 'melody and poetry'". BBC News. 16 June 2012. Retrieved 24 June 2012. 
  21. ^ "Elizabeth Fraser releases new single, 'Moses' + starts work on first solo album". Side-line.com. Retrieved 24 June 2012. 
  22. ^ Dave Simpson (26 November 2009). "Fraser's interview with ''The Guardian'', her first in a decade". London: Guardian. Retrieved 24 June 2012. 
  23. ^ "Cocteau Twins' Elizabeth Fraser to play first show in 14 years | News". Nme.Com. 14 June 2012. Retrieved 24 June 2012. 
  24. ^ 'Elizabeth Fraser – Meltdown @ The Royal Festival Hall, London 07/08/12' by Jude Clarke, 'The Line of Best Fit', 9 August 2012
  25. ^ 'LIVE REPORT: Elizabeth Fraser' by Chris Roberts, 'The Quietus', 9 August 2012
  26. ^ 'Elizabeth Fraser Live @ Meltdown' by Chris Todd, 'Clash' magazine
  27. ^ 'Elizabeth Fraser Live' by Adrian Master, Welsh Art Review]
  28. ^ Lucy Potterton homepage - About Lucy Potterton
  29. ^ a b Paine, Andre. "Meltdown: Elizabeth Fraser, Royal Festival Hall - review". Evening Standard. 7 August 2012. Retrieved 10-12-12
  30. ^ Hunter-Tilney, Ludovic. "Meltdown: Elizabeth Fraser, Royal Festival Hall, London". Financial Times. 7 August 2012.
  31. ^ a b Petridis, Alexis (7 August 2012). "Elizabeth Fraser – review". The Guardian. 
  32. ^ "Cocteau Twins' website". Cocteautwins.com. Retrieved 24 June 2012. 
  33. ^ Adams, Tim (24 June 2012). "Elizabeth Fraser: 'I'm so excited to have made this decision to play'". The Guardian (London). 

External links[edit]