Two dream pop legends join forces
No fan of ’90s shoegazer or dream pop music will be surprised to find Ride vocalist and guitarist Mark Gardener collaborating with Cocteau Twins auteur Robin Guthrie: The latter band always was one of the biggest influences on Ride, My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, and their peers. What comes as a pleasant discovery is to hear that Guthrie is almost as effective in a different setting without the vocals of Liz Fraser, whose incredible vocals were the ideal complement to his wispy guitars, so much so that neither seems conceivable without the other.
As beloved and influential as they remain, the Cocteau Twins seem like that rare ’80s or ’90s proto-alternative combo that will never reunite: This 2009 interview with Fraser in The Guardian seems to make that heartbreakingly clear. But while nowhere near as distinctive a singer as Fraser, Gardener has a beautiful voice that Guthrie frames to perfection, the willowy lyrics about existential pains and joys (how very ’90s!) just another texture in the fluffy cloud of echoing, reverbed guitar riffs and tuneful pillows of ambient sound. And if that doesn’t sound appealing to you, well, it’s likely you never loved either of these gents’ original bands.
Robin Guthrie and Mark Gardener, Universal Road (Soleil Apres Minuit)
Rating on the 4-star scale: 3.5 stars.