Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Robin Guthrie - Fortune

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.
~Eddie Gibson



  1. one half of bella union? he doesnt do much for his half does he. left in 2002, withdrew all his records from the label, moved to france and slagged the label off in the press. weird behaviour if he was really half the label.


  2. from his own website:
    "You talked about how the studio evolved into a business. Can you tell me what it was like to be an artist running a business?
    I am not an artist who is capable of running a business. I am totally useless. [laughs] There is nothing creative about running a recording studio. Its like running a fucking Starbucks - you are in the service industry. Where's the fucking sanctity there? Of course, I tried having a record label [Bella Union] and I see that as the same fucking thing. Its like selling cans of dog food and that's why you've seen me ditch those things in the last 18 months to 2 years. I said, “Fuck it. I am going to stay in the part of the business that doesn't really pay you, but it makes you feel good.”


  3. Hey Muriel.

    I was meerly getting at the point that he was one half in the formation of Bella Union, and I said "now serves a lesser role than his Cocteau Twins bass counterpart Simon Raymonde."
    I don't know about Robin leaving Bella Union alltogether, I'm sure he has financial royalties coming his way even if he's not involed in the running of the label.
    Does it really matter haha??
    What did you make of the album?