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 54)
Grangemouth, Scotland
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1979–present
Associated acts
Website elizabethfraser.com

Elizabeth Davidson Fraser (born 29 August 1963),[1] sometimes known as Liz Fraser, is a Scottish singer, songwriter and musician from Grangemouth, Scotland, best known as the vocalist for the band Cocteau Twins. She has a soprano vocal range.[2] 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".[3] Her distinctive singing has received much critical praise; she was once described as "the voice of God."[4] Her lyrics range from straightforward English to semi-comprehensible sentences (idioglossia) and abstract mouth music. For some recordings, she has said she used foreign words without knowing what they meant – the words acquired meaning for her only as she sang them.[5]

Biography[edit]

Early years[edit]

Elizabeth Fraser grew up in Grangemouth, which she described as "a dark and stifling industrial town".[6] She is from the working class: her mother worked in a factory.[7] She was the youngest of six children. During her teenage years, she suffered food problems and became bulimic. In 1996, she revealed that she went through incest and was sexually abused by a brother-in-law and possibly her father. At 16, she was forced to leave the family house for having a punk look.[6] Music was important and represented a loophole; she got faces of her heroes like Siouxsie and the Banshees tattooed on her arms.[8]. She met her partner Robin Guthrie at 17; "What brought us together was me having no ideas and opinions of my own, and him having plenty- enough for both of us. We were attracted to each other for the wrong reasons".[6]

Cocteau Twins[edit]

Fraser then became the vocalist and lyricist in Cocteau Twins in 1981, (a group founded in 1979 by Guthrie and Will Heggie): they spotted her dancing at a club one night, and asked her to join their band.[9] At the time, she was 17 years old, and had never thought of herself as a singer. 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 signing by the London-based label and a successful career in music.[10]

Fraser and Guthrie formed a relationship, and in 1989 had a daughter, Lucy Belle. He liberally used drugs and alcohol throughout the years they were together,[11] and she had a nervous breakdown during the recording of Four-Calendar Café.[6] The couple broke up in 1993, but opted to continue a musical relationship until 1998, when Cocteau Twins were finally disbanded.[12]

Fraser had an intense personal relationship with singer Jeff Buckley[4] and recorded a duet with him, "All Flowers in Time Bend Towards The Sun", written by him but never released commercially. She speaks about their relationship in the BBC documentary, Jeff Buckley: Everybody Here Wants You.[13]

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

Since the breakup of Cocteau Twins in 1997, Fraser has sporadically collaborated with a range of performers, including The Future Sound of London (Lifeforms EP), Elliot Goldenthal, Craig Armstrong (The Space Between Us) 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 including In Dreams, Cruel Intentions, The Winter Guest, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, 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 years of Rough Trade Records. In 2004, she 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 her 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 the 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 the latter.[21][22]

In August 2012 Fraser performed for two nights as part of the Meltdown Festival at London's Southbank Centre, curated by Anohni. Prior to the concerts she 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.[23] She 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."[23] Prior to her appearance at Meltdown, she played a warm-up concert at Bath Pavilion on 4 August.[24]

In addition to Damon Reece on drums and percussion, Fraser's backing band featured three other former or current members of Spiritualized - Sean Cook (guitar), Martin Shellard (guitar), Thighpaulsandra (keyboards) – and two backing vocalists (Jo Goldsmith-Eteson and Lucy Potterton, both from The Swingle Singers).[25][26][27][28]

Reviews of 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]

Sky Arts' 2016 drama series The Nightmare Worlds of H. G. Wells carried a score composed by Fraser and Reece.[32] Also in 2016, she collaborated with The Insects on the soundtrack to the BBC TV series The Living and The Dead. She could be heard singing "She Moves Through the Fair" in episode 1, and "The Lover's Ghost" over the end titles in episode 4.[33][34] The soundtrack has been made available as a digital download.[35]

Fraser made a rare appearance at the Royal Albert Hall on 23 July 2017, in conversation with John Grant. They discussed the Cocteau Twins 1988 album, Blue Bell Knoll, with all proceeds from the show going to gay rights charity Stonewall.[36][37] During the conversation Fraser responded to a question from the audience about a possible collaboration with John Grant, saying "He doesn't need to persuade me!". [38] Speaking of her insecurity about recording and performing, Fraser said "I get it in the studio, it's a horror, but it's part of the journey ... I don't think I was confident, especially when I stopped singing. That's when the voice kicks in, really nagging you, telling you what a horrible person you are and 'what do you think you're doing'. But then you sing and it shuts up that voice, the other voice is louder … "[38]

Personal life[edit]

Elizabeth Fraser was born in Grangemouth.[39] She lives with her partner, musician Damon Reece (from the band Lupine Howl), in Bristol. She has two daughters.

Discography[edit]

With Cocteau Twins[edit]

Main artist[edit]

Singles[edit]

Guest appearances[edit]

Artist Album Track(s) Date Label
The Insects The Living and the Dead Soundtrack "She Moves Through the Fair" 2016 Self Released
Massive Attack Collected "Silent Spring" 2006 Virgin Records
Yann Tiersen Les Retrouvailles "Mary", "Kala" 2005 EMI
Howard Shore The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: The Complete Recordings "Caras Galadhon / Lament for Gandalf" 2005 Warner Brothers
Various artists (compilation) Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before... "At Last I Am Free" (originally by Robert Wyatt) 2003 Rough Trade
Howard Shore The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers "Isengard Unleashed" 2002 Warner Brothers
Peter Gabriel OVO "Downside Up", "Make Tomorrow" 2000 EMI
Elliot Goldenthal; Elizabeth Fraser In Dreams "Dream Baby" 1999 EMI
Simon Raymonde Blame Someone Else "Worship Me" 1998 Bella Union
Michael Kamen The Winter Guest "Take Me With You" 1998 Universal
Craig Armstrong The Space Between Us "This Love" 1998 Melankolic
Massive Attack Mezzanine "Teardrop", "Black Milk" and "Group Four" 1998 Virgin Records
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
The Future Sound of London Lifeforms [Remixes] EP "Lifeforms 1-5 and 7" 1994 Astralwerks
Medicine Sounds of Medicine "Time Baby 3" 1994 Beggars Banquet
Ian McCulloch Mysterio "Heaven's Gate" 1992 Sire Records
Ian McCulloch Candleland "Candleland" 1989 Sire Records
Dif Juz Extractions "Love Insane" 1985 4AD
Felt Ignite the Seven Cannons "Primitive Painters" 1985 Cherry Red
This Mortal Coil It'll End in Tears "Song to the Siren", "Another Day" 1984 4AD
The Wolfgang Press Scarecrow "Respect" 1984 4AD

References[edit]

  1. ^ Nick Neyland. "The Cocteau Twins' Liz Fraser Gives Rare Interview | Prefix". Prefixmag.com. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d Mugan, Chris (7 August 2012). "Elizabeth Fraser, Royal Festival Hall, London". The Independent. 
  3. ^ Elizabeth Fraser at AllMusic
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ Elizabeth Fraser (2 August 2011). Elizabeth Fraser talks about her lyrics. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c d Phoenix, Val. "Embracing Otherness". Alternative Press (January 1997). 
  7. ^ King, Richard (2012). How Soon is Now?: The Madmen and Mavericks who made Independent Music 1975-2005. Faber & Faber. ISBN 0571243908. Colin Wallace, their friend, confident and roadie has come from the same background as Fraser, Heggie and Guthrie. 'Liz's mum and my mum used to work in the same factory', he says, 'and God, it was awful, and I became their roadie through default. The first Cocteaus album, Garlands, was written off in the UK as another Siouxsie copy band, and Elisabeth was a huge Siouxsie fan - she had Siouxsie tattoos which she's had lasered off since'. 
  8. ^ Chapman, Rob (July 1998). "Dark Side of the Spliff: Massive Attack". Mojo. Massive Attack have always looked outside the core trio for musical collaborations with kindred spirits, not just in old grooves but also in the flesh. Former Cocteau Twin Elizabeth Frazer was one: now living in Bristol, she’d previously been sounded out before Protection but hadn’t responded. Did she say why? "Have you met Liz?" 3D splutters with laughter. "She's a very excitable and quite mad in the best way. She threw a million words into the air and we tried to grab a few and work out what she meant. Me and Mush met her in Sainsbury's and invited her up to the studio. There was this nerve-wracking moment before she arrived and I said, It's really sterile in here, let's light some candles in here and make it funky for her. She loved our Siouxsie and the banshees sample off ‘Metal Postcard’ — she’d just had this Siouxsie and the Banshees tattoo removed from her arm. 
  9. ^ "Elizabeth Fraser's website". Elizabethfraser.com. Retrieved 24 June 2012. 
  10. ^ "history|chapter 1: 1982". cocteau twins. Retrieved 24 June 2012. 
  11. ^ "History | chapter 16: 1993". cocteau twins. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  12. ^ "History". CocteauTwins.com. Retrieved 12 June 2013. 
  13. ^ "Jeff Buckley: Everybody Here Wants You". Archived from the original on 11 August 2003. Retrieved 7 April 2015.  – BBC 4 feature
  14. ^ "6 Music - Raymonde blames bandmates". BBC. Retrieved 24 June 2012. 
  15. ^ 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. 
  16. ^ Hunter, Ludovic (7 August 2012). "Meltdown: Elizabeth Fraser, Royal Festival Hall, London". FT.com. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  17. ^ "The rise of the Moon and an extraordinary musical star". Herald Scotland. 9 January 2014. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  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. ^ a b Dave Simpson (1 May 2012). "Cocteau Twins' Elizabeth Fraser to perform at Meltdown festival | Music". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 24 June 2012. 
  24. ^ "Cocteau Twins' Elizabeth Fraser to play first show in 14 years | News". Nme.Com. 14 June 2012. Retrieved 24 June 2012. 
  25. ^ 'Elizabeth Fraser – Meltdown @ The Royal Festival Hall, London 07/08/12' by Jude Clarke, 'The Line of Best Fit', 9 August 2012
  26. ^ 'LIVE REPORT: Elizabeth Fraser' by Chris Roberts, 'The Quietus', 9 August 2012
  27. ^ 'Elizabeth Fraser Live @ Meltdown' by Chris Todd, 'Clash' magazine
  28. ^ "Elizabeth Fraser Live - Wales Arts Review". 8 October 2012. 
  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. ^ John Earls (18 January 2016). "Exclusive Listen: Elizabeth Fraser's comeback music". Loaded.co.uk. Retrieved 29 August 2016. 
  33. ^ "Film Soundtrack & Audio Production, Bristol, United Kingdom". The Insects. Retrieved 29 August 2016. 
  34. ^ Miles Bowe. "Cocteau Twins' Elizabeth Fraser contributes song to BBC series". Factmag.com. Retrieved 29 August 2016. 
  35. ^ "Interview - The Insects, soundtrack composers on The Living and The Dead". Spiral Earth. 20 July 2016. Retrieved 29 August 2016. 
  36. ^ "Spend an evening with Elizabeth Fraser and John Grant - Royal Albert Hall". Royal Albert Hall. 
  37. ^ "The Quietus - News - John Grant And Elizabeth Fraser In Conversation". 
  38. ^ a b "The Quietus - News - Elizabeth Fraser And John Grant Talk 'Blue Bell Knoll'". 
  39. ^ "Cocteau Twins' website". Cocteautwins.com. Retrieved 24 June 2012. 

External links[edit]