Along with Dead Can Dance and Cocteau Twins, the 4AD label’s This Mortal Coil project — a collaboration between label founder Ivo Watts-Russell, engineer John Fryer, and a veritable who’s who of musicians — was instrumental in creating what would eventually become known as “the 4AD sound,” i.e., a richly atmospheric and wonderfully melancholy sound that existed somewhere between goth, post-punk, and ambient music.
This Mortal Coil was a highly influential project in certain musical circles (try imagining, for example, the Projekt label without it), and resulted in some truly beautiful music. Music that ranged from transcendent covers of Tim Buckley’s “Song to the Siren,” Alex Chilton’s “Kangaroo,” and Pearls Before Swine’s “The Jeweller” to some stunning original pieces featuring the talents of Lisa Gerrard, Simon Raymonde, and Pieter Nooten (to name but a few of the musicians featured on the albums).
The project released three full-length albums in all — It’ll End in Tears (1984), Filigree & Shadow (1986), and Blood (1991) — and Slicing Up Eyeballs reports that all three will be reissued by 4AD on deluxe vinyl and CD versions, as well as digitally.
The new deluxe vinyl versions differ from the original releases with each album having had its artwork reimagined by Ivo Watts-Russell and Vaughan Oliver (4AD’s long-time visual partner). All three are now presented in beautiful, hand finished and high-gloss gatefold sleeves, using remastered audio made from the original analogue studio tapes by the late, great John Dent.
The deluxe CD editions are being manufactured by the Ichikudo company in Japan, coming packaged in striking gatefold paper sleeves which are printed to the highest standard. Originally made available as part of a highly limited boxset back in 2011, these new versions differ by being UHQCDs (Ultimate High Quality Compact Disc) rather than HDCDs (High Definition Compatible Digital).
All three reissues will be released on October 26, but can be preordered right now on 4AD’s website.
I’m listening to It’ll End in Tears as I write this article, and it’s one of those recordings that I consider timeless; it seems to exist within its own little universe, one that I never find to be anything other than enchanting. Or, as Pitchfork put it, “this collection of covers helped set the template for dream pop and catalyzed 4AD’s ascendance from the stilted poetics of goth rock to the kings of gauzy transcendence.”
Elizabeth Fraser and Robin Guthrie’s cover of “Song to the Siren” gets all of the attention (and understandably so). However, I’m partial to Howard Devoto’s harrowing cover of Alex Chilton’s “Holocaust,” Lisa Gerrard’s otherworldly “Waves Become Wings,” and Gordon Sharp’s “A Single Wish,” which closes the album in a fragile, haunting manner. All together, it’s the epitome of mood music, particularly if you’re feeling a wee bit mopey and want something to listen to while staring out the window at the falling rain.
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I've also written for Christ and Pop Culture, ScreenAnarchy, Filmwell, and Christian Research Journal. I pay the bills by creating beautiful user interfaces and websites for Firespring and Red Bicycle.