A mystery shrouds and surrounds the Cocteau Twins. The puzzle keeps fans talking, keeps them thinking, and keeps their ears glued to the speaker each time Liz Fraser begins to sing over the dream-like textures of the song. 'What on Earth is she saying,' they ask.
She's not telling. Simon Raymonde, one of the three Twins, points to the pragmatic reason why: "It's gone on so long and people have built up such a thing about Liz's lyrics that to turn full face and say here they are it would seem so weird." There have been times where her words were understandable, a line here and there, but the exception proves the rule and when the known lyrics include couplets like: "Grail overfloweth / Forget-me-not wreaths / Chaplets see me drugged / I could die in the rosary." fans are dying to know the beauty of the rest.
Their new album, "Milk and Kisses," due out in May, finds Fraser up to old tricks again. Raymonde also points to some of the deeper reasons for the ghostly lyrics. "I think she sort of invented this kind of abstract, phonetic kind of language that she's used in varying doses over the years as something to hide behind. Little did she know that that was going to cause even more attention than if she had sung something decipherable."
Truth be told, even the rest of the Cocteaus don't get to see her words. During the recording process in their self-owned studio in West London, Raymonde and Robin Guthrie set about the work of making music. Raymonde works on the pianos and bass setting down the melodies. Guthrie concentrates on the drum programming (they have never recorded with a drummer) and the sound textures. Together they create the sound that is definitely Cocteau. A rich layer of sonic textures that flows beneath Fraser's vocals.
Meanwhile, Fraser is off in another room writing. She does not get to hear the songs until they are finished. "When I say it, it sounds like, 'why would you do that?' To us it's completely natural," says Raymonde. "It's how we get dressed in the morning."
"She goes there of her own volition, we don't lock her although in the past perhaps we should have done, because perhaps we would have gotten records out a little quicker ‚ but that's another story."
The past year found them putting out two EP's and recording the new album. On "Twinlights," they released stripped-down versions of some of the tracks for "Milk and Kisses." Don't try and call it an 'unplugged' album though. For them, it was an experiment to see what would happen if they removed much of what people had thought of when they thought of the Cocteaus, namely, the electronics. "Twinlights" was a limb they went on after a revelation: "It's the three of us that make up the Cocteaus not anything else," Raymonde says, "Strange as it may seem it's taken quite a while to figure this out."