Cocteau Twins & Harold Budd - The Moon and the Melodies

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The Moon and the Melodies - CD
The Moon and the Melodies - Black Vinyl LP

Shipping to arrive around August 23, 2024

The Moon and the Melodies is a singular record within the Cocteau Twins’ catalogue - unusually ethereal, even by their standards, and largely instrumental, guided by the free-form improvisations of Harold Budd, an ambient pioneer who had drifted into their orbit as if by divine intervention. Building on the atmospheric bliss of Victorialand, released earlier the same year, it signalled a possible future for the trio, yet it was a path they’d never take again. Now, almost forty years after it was first released, it’s being reissued on vinyl for the first time – remastered, from the original tapes, by Robin Guthrie himself. 

No one involved can recall exactly how it came about. As both Guthrie and Simon Raymonde remember it, the independent UK television station Channel 4 approached them about a film project pairing musicians from different genres. In interviews  in the 1980s, however, Budd (who sadly passed away in 2020), believed his publisher linked them after the group had expressed interest in covering one of his songs. In any case, the film never happened. “But we’d spoken to Harold, and we were all quite excited about it,” Raymonde recalls. “We’re like, well, let’s carry on and do it anyway and see what happens.” 

Convening in the band’s newly built recording studio (September Sound in West London), all four got on immediately and over a fortnight, made a quite astounding record. Their contrasting approaches shaped the album’s somewhat curious format – four instrumentals in Budd’s meandering style, more tone poems than actual songs, and four more structured pieces with verses, choruses, drum machine, and, of course, Elizabeth Fraser’s inimitable singing, as bold and inspired as ever. 

Another curious thing is that the album is credited to all four players under their individual names, following the same intuitive logic as everything else that went into the record. These days, however, on streaming services, you’ll find the album filed chronologically alongside the rest of the band’s work. “What’s interesting,” Guthrie adds, “is that I got the tape boxes from the studio, and guess what it says on it? ‘Cocteau Twins plus Harold Budd.’” Perhaps, he seems to suggest, the group got hung up on a detail that never really mattered. In any case, Raymonde says, “The more credit that Harold gets for the work he did, the more people that find his music because it’s in the Cocteau environment, the better.” 

Over the ensuing years, The Moon and the Melodies has  attracted a passionate fan base. Its most atmospheric tracks routinely turn up in ambient DJ sets. ‘Sea, Swallow Me’ is one of the Cocteau Twins’ most streamed songs on Spotify, having found a new life on TikTok, where it serves as the soundtrack to innumerable expressions of hard-to-express melancholy. 

For such a low-key affair, the album casts a long shadow – but Raymonde believes the record’s uniqueness stems directly from its humble, unpremeditated origins.
“It captured a moment in time between friends that are enjoying making music together. Really, that’s the essence of it.”