As co-founder and guitarist for the legendary Cocteau Twins, Robin Guthrie’s skills as a creator of dense and gorgeous soundscapes go without saying. For some, it’s hard to separate his guitar from the voice of Elizabeth Fraser.
Yet since 2003, Guthrie has been creating sounds all his own with cinematically beautiful records that go far beyond simple shoegazing.
With his latest, Carousel, Guthrie provides perpetual stillness and calm. There is an open-ended feel to the music as it unfolds, suggesting an expansiveness that reaches far beyond the many layers of each individual composition in search of something grander.
It could be argued, I think, that Guthrie is searching. The tracks, ten of them, are of modest length and never come across as decadent or ravenous. Carousel is about quiet yearning and cool discovery, tracing steps more than once and doubling back on the map to ensure nothing was missed on the first pass.
Superficially, this is not a record for waking up in the morning or for operating heavy machinery. The textures are peaceful and gentle almost like the type of serene mood music one would hear at a chic, mud-spattered spa. Somehow Guthrie pushes a soul into it, though, and infuses the still moods with segments of longing and pondering and wishing and maybe even hoping.
The underlying current really is Carousel’s driving force. The tracks aren’t easy to describe or separate as songs; they feel like parts of a broader movement, like folded and crumpled pages in a diary.
Despite the wordlessness of the music, Guthrie’s work seems deeply personal, alive and real. There is fragility to the pieces that betray his sense of things, opening opportunities for quiet thought and reflection without invading or crowding out the space. Carousel is a spiritual experience if it is allowed to be, I suppose.
Some might pause to consider what Fraser’s voice would sound like if it punched through Guthrie’s haze of programming, keys and guitar. For most, though, I daresay the experience will suffice on its own. Guthrie is a gifted musician with an ear and an eye for tone, mood and sound. His Carousel proves that there may well be a method and a message to the mood, even if it is indistinct.