The master of ethereal guitar Robin Guthrie returns with his fifth solo album Fortune. The name rings a bell doesn't it? Guthrie used to be one third of Scotland's finest dream-pop outfit, Cocteau Twins. In 1986, Elizabeth Fraser and Guthrie collaborated with American ambient artist Harold Budd on The Moon and the Melodies. The same year saw Cocteau Twins release their fourth album Victorialand. The ambient textures on The Moon and the Melodies obviously rubbed off on Guthrie, as his solo discography has proven to be one of beauty and elegance. Without Fraser, Guthrie can only rely on his guitar to do the talking. Guthrie is no Vini Reilly (The Durutti Column), but he does possess the power of ethereal, backed by his critically acclaimed career with one of the best bands of the 80s.
Guthrie is (was) one half of independent record label Bella Union, although now serves a non-existent role compared to his Cocteau Twins bass counterpart Simon Raymonde. His work outside of Cocteau Twins has been varied. From record label executive to guest collaborator, Guthrie has a wide background in the torrid music industry. His fifth album Fortune is the icing on the cake to his 50th year on planet Earth. And on the opening track "Cadence", all previous personal problems become absent. This is the now, and Guthrie takes full advantage of this. The second track "Circus Circus" is just as hallucinogenic as the opening track, including Guthrie's guitar layered drones he's famous for. Guthrie's true musicianship comes in the form of hearing, listening for the right sounds using the right effects.
There's not a single track on this album that doesn't deserve to be here. The lucid "Forever Never" is an elegant track which raises the stakes and brings it home in the final third. "Ladybird" sounds like its title, with soft beauty and delicate atmospheres. "Like Water In Milk" has the wall of sound production Guthrie incorporated into his sound all those years ago with Cocteau Twins. Apart from the effect heavy guitar, the other instrumentation fails to communicate with the listener. The percussion is light, but with light drumming comes this falsified sound which shouldn’t be put alongside such melancholy guitar work. On the other side of this, "Lavona's Life" benefits with the percussion due to its minimal nature.
"Tigermilk" is one of my favourites because of its sensual guitar melody and ethereal atmosphere. Guthrie has created a sound worth listening to no matter what the time, or weather. The ambient recordings are better than the structured few, however the main bulk of this album revolves around Guthrie's depth in guitar. The title Tigermilk also springs to mind a certain debut album by fellow Scottish giants, Belle & Sebastian. Perhaps it’s a homage to Stuart Murdoch who lists Cocteau Twins as his biggest idol? I'm not sure; it's something for me to research.
The final two tracks "Perfume and Youth" and "Kings Will Be Falling" are the best tracks on the album because they're powerful, energetic and melodic recordings. Guthrie becomes somewhat of a craftsman on the penultimate track which is far more ambient and easy listening than all the previous material in Guthrie's discography. Fortune unexpectedly ends with a bang. It opens with two minutes of atmospheric guitar layers before doubling in volume and instrumentation at the half way mark. You can hear a real sense of freedom and accomplishment in the final few minutes of Fortune.
If you're unfamiliar with Guthrie's solo work, take a chance on this album because you won't be disappointed. The eager listener will hear similarities to Victorialand, but the long term Guthrie fan will fit Fortune alongside the previous four Guthrie albums. You may enhance this listen by turning off the lights or perhaps turning on rainymood. However you wish to listen, Fortune will leave a mark of tentativeness and bewilderness on the audience. It will bring you back to the glorious days of obscurity in alternative music- it brings you right to the core of Robin Guthrie.