Release date: 1 October 1984
Signed By Simon Raymonde
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The muse sang in Tim Buckley when he wrote “Song to the Siren,” a lovelorn ’60s ballad for the female monsters whose incantations tempted Homer’s Odysseus. But the track wouldn’t fulfill its mesmerizing potential until 1983, when Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser unfurled her diaphanous voice over its devotional lyrics on a cover by This Mortal Coil. Intended as a B-side, the recording became the 4AD super-collective’s first single, lingering on the UK indie charts for two years.
“Siren” looms so large in the dream pop mythos, it can overshadow not just the debut album it anchors, It’ll End in Tears, but also the entire discography of This Mortal Coil. Conceived and produced by 4AD founder Ivo Watts-Russell, the band was designed to recontextualize some of his favorite songs and encourage experimentation beyond each contributing artist’s signature sound. Cindytalk frontman Gordon Sharp’s echoing laments transform Big Star’s “Kanga Roo” from lackadaisical to crushing, while piano lends additional solemnity to the same band’s “Holocaust,” as sung by Howard Devoto of Magazine. Paired with atmospheric compositions by Fraser’s Cocteau Twins bandmates, Dead Can Dance vocalist Lisa Gerrard, and more stars, 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.
– Judy Berman, Pitchfork