"Bethmale - EP" by Heligoland
(2011, Self Released)
The moment I saw that the great Robin Guthrie had produced this album, I knew I was in for a treat. For those of you not in the know, he was the genius guitarist behind the legendary 80s dream-pop band Cocteau Twins. His dreamy, lush soundscapes that enveloped gifted vocalist Elizabeth Frazer's mysterious lyrics have always had a place in my heart. The only music my family listened to in the car growing up was The Best of Simon and Garfunkel and Heaven or Las Vegas by Cocteau Twins, fostering a healthy taste in music at a young age. Although they were never a household name, the 'Twins captured the hearts of anyone with good taste during their decade spanning career churning out countless albums and EPs. Cocteau Twins have long since past, but the Guthrie name is still carried on through the many projects he's started and bands he's worked with. The unusually dark Bethmale is just another sign that he's still got plenty of tricks up his sleeve.
Guthrie isn't the only reason to pick up Bethmale, though. Heligoland, hailing from Paris, is a very talented group of musicians with a timeless approach to shoegaze. Many tracks are mostly driven by Karen Vogt's deep, husky vocals, especially on the closer "July 14." (A Bastille Day reference?) Understated yet powerful touches of guitar caress Karen's dynamic and gorgeous voice. "Wandering Wide Awake," the opener, feels like waking from a dream, complete with samples of birds twittering. "Castillion" is a mystifying track driven by icy keyboards and a barely audible drum machine. It's a Cocteau Twins flashback if I've ever heard one.
Overall, Bethmale is a very pretty release---but isn't groundbreaking in the least. Is that such a bad thing, though? As Heligoland shows us, sometimes the greatest progress is made by looking to the the past. A big thumbs up to the band and wishes for many more future albums. While Bethmale is not available for digital download, you can listen to it here, and purchase it for $8.00 on CD in a very elegant package.