Treasure - 1984

Treasure Ivo

Treasure was the third complete album by the Cocteau Twins, and to many it is one of their best. The melodies are even less obvious than they were on the previous albums, and the lyrics are even less comprehensible. To get used to these songs one has to work hard and play them over and over again. Yet great reward awaits at the end, for these ten songs represent as many jewels of songwriting. Their rhythms may be hard to grasp, but once they hit you they never let go again.

With Simon Raymonde having joined the Twins, Treasure is also the first complete album made by the band in what was to be their definitive line-up. Whether this caused a departure from their previous musical directions is probably hard to tell, but the album is certainly not as diverse as its predecessor Head Over Heels. Instead a more consistent style is being adopted throughout, which certainly adds to the rather intimate atmosphere of the album.

All ten song titles consist of just a single name, (though none of them common) but one will have a hard time trying to find them anywhere in the lyrics. Apparently they were just made up by Liz, and don't bear any special meaning. Nobody so far has managed to come up with any sensible lyrics for any of these songs, and perhaps this is just as well. Especially on this album Liz's voice should be appreciated as a vocal instrument rather than as a bringer of information.

The music itself is partly getting more and more towards a dreamy sound like in Otterley, Beatrix or Pandora, with occasional louder songs like Lorelei and Persephone mixed inbetween. Six out of ten songs are in three time, an almost unique occurrence in rock music. Every song breathes intimacy, magic and beauty. The mysterious shroud artwork on the cover adds to the intangibility of it all.

In short then the album is just brilliant. If you don't own any works by the Cocteau Twins yet try purchasing Treasure - you are unlikely to ever regret it.


Never did the band create a more enchanting introduction to a song then when they wrote Ivo, the track which deservedly was given the honour to welcome the listener to their fantastic Treasure album. Softly, ever so softly a beautiful acoustic guitar makes its presence known, soon joined by Liz' crystal clear voice. And that is just the beginning of what turns out to be a symphony of beauty and high complexity.

Many different vocal lines turn up in the next few minutes, and that is not the only reason why it is hard to figure out exactly what is happening. The key appears to be changing a few times, the rhythm is difficult to grasp, bass, acoustic and electric guitars are intertwined, and just when you feel you've got it figured out another change comes along. There's just not a single moment in this song without its own surprise!

There's so much to discover in this song. Note the variation in the drums and Liz' rather witty vocals during what can be described as the chorus. Eventually an electric guitar briefly takes charge in an unexpectedly forceful episode, only to yield quickly to the acoustic guitar again as a final drum riff and Liz last contributions perfectly conclude it all.

The constant factor during all this is the sound. No matter whether the drums, the vocals, the acoustic or the electric guitar are dominating at any particular moment - at all times the overall 'sound colour' remains the same. A fantastic, warm sound, featuring Liz' incredible vocals, loud, spatial drums, cymbals and a mix of many guitars.

Throughout the entire album all tracks are bound together by this magical, impossible to define yet very recognizable sound. But nowhere is it turned into a song more beautifully than it is on Ivo.

The band admirably played Ivo during a BBC Session as well.


Lorelei - the famous rock in the Rhine. Legend has it a famous treasure is hidden nearby. One wonders whether this is where the inspiration for the album title came from. Lorelei, in any case, is a song as solid as a rock.

Following straight after the subtleties of Ivo, this track hits the unsuspecting listener like a freight train. A loud, overwhelming electric guitar dominates the song. Relentlessly it delivers deafening chords, ably assisted by the kind of loud drums and cymbals so typical of Treasure. Together they form a wall of sound, a curtain of noise, setting the stage for Liz, challenging her to perform yet another magical vocal trick.

And she does, of course. Her style in this case is possibly best described by 'whispering at full volume'. It makes the vocal part sound rather innocent, and the rising pitch and the subdued way of singing contribute to this impression of youth and naivety.

Despite holding back though Liz somehow manages to stay on a par with the loudness of the guitar and percussion. In fact halfway through the song, when she finally allows herself to erupt into a fantastic interlude at full vocal strength, she easily comes out on top.

Lorelei is one of the songs by the Cocteau Twins that could really be categorized as 'hard rock'. It's a genre the band only rarely played (although on Treasure they had one more go with Persephone) but as one had come to expect by now the band showed once more they could make any style work for them.


Treasure is an album filled with surprises. Not that it would exactly be easy to predict the type of song that would follow such totally different ones as Ivo and Lorelei. But to include a song with medieval influences on a rock album...

The song opens with a single chord - then keeps you waiting for a few seconds. After that you might as well think for a moment you've put on the wrong cd, for Beatrix is in some ways totally unlike the other songs on Treasure. The first part for instance has no drums or other percussion. Just vocals, bass and those medieval sounds. The vocals have a touch of echo that makes them sound really great. The bass is very prominent and sounds very natural. But it's the guitar that makes this track so special. How can you play an electric guitar to make it sound like it comes right from the Middle Ages? It seems a totally impossible task, and only Robin could manage something like that. It's a truly amazing effect.

To create a sound is of course just half the work. To turn it into a great song is another thing. But Beatrix is not just about a sound effect. Guitar, vocals and bass really melt together into a lovely song. And there's still more to it than that. After a few minutes there's a change of pace and a powerful finale. A few heavy drum beats and several dramatic wails from Liz provide a suitable conclusion to this mighty song.

You would think that a song such as Beatrix would sound very different from the other songs on the album. It does, and yet it doesn't. Despite its unique character it still sounds very much like a track from Treasure. How the band managed to accomplish that will remain one of life's mysteries.

The band also recorded this song for one of their BBC sessions.


Turn up the volume - Persephone is here to bring the house down. Screaming guitars, pounding drums, blistering vocals, they're all there. The result is easily the best hard rock song the band have ever done.

From the first stunning drum riff Persephone bursts out of the speakers like an uncaged tiger. The guitars come out in force - scorching, tearing in a tornado of sound and rhythm. The drums sound as if they're being played at absolute maximum power and are then still being amplified beyond that.

It would appear impossible to get any decent vocal performance against such a torrent, but how Liz proves otherwise! In an astounding display she shines brightly as she dominates the song. She needs every bit of vocal power to cope but even at this volume she still manages to sing. Loud, louder, and even louder the song goes. Vocal overdubs, more drum riffs, and crashing guitars come together into a crucible of sound, a pulsating performance, a blazing glory of hard rock music like the band have rarely performed.

How to finish such a breathtaking track? Unbelievably the song even has a rather neat conclusion. One moment everything is going at full strength, the next the song ends with a great collective fade-out. Depending on your stereo settings the ringing in your ears might just last a bit longer.


Pandora (mysteriously adorned with the indication for Cindy) is the track that brings a few calmer moments after the first four songs lavishly spent such huge quantities of energy and creativity.

It's the gentleness of the guitar section that makes Pandora flow by so easily. There are no loud chords to break the peace, no quick rhythms to disturb the quiet atmosphere. The percussion isn't particularly heavy either, though still typical for Treasure.

Under these circumstances Liz gets ample opportunity to show a few vocal variations, and she eagerly obliges. Most of the time two very different vocal melodies are mixed together, one very quick, the other much more stately. But note how she provides a few further melodies in what could perhaps be called the chorus, so that makes four in total.

Despite featuring the clearest vocals of the album the lyrics of Pandora remain shrouded in obscurity. A remarkable number of words appear to start with an 'F', and it has been suggested that Liz is simply reciting a list of names all starting with an 'F', but no one knows for sure.

Because of its quiet nature Pandora is perhaps the least striking song from the album, but its elegant vocals still make it a beautiful effort.


Amelia is almost typical for the kind of composition we find on Treasure. All the instruments are mixed into a beautiful impression of sound. From the moment the very first chord bursts into life until the fade-out the song breathes a perfect harmony between all the different melodies and rhythms.

The percussion is rather elaborate and features heavy use of cymbals. The lead vocals are gentle, almost subdued at times, and very well complemented by occasionally louder background vocals. The arrangement somehow succeeds in giving an impression of warmth, peace and happiness.

Upon careful listening the song reveals its structure, which is unusual. Effectively there is just a single main verse or chorus, repeated three, four and five times in all, with two different interludes. The first one of these is mainly supported by a totally different, almost naive vocal melody, the second one just features a few slightly distorted guitar chords.

Normally it would be hard to create an interesting song with such a simple scheme, and one feels only the Cocteau Twins could succeed so well in turning it into a musical jewel.


Treasure may have been a name despised at times by the band members, most fans are of the opinion the album could hardly have been more aptly named. Among the album's jewels Aloysius is a marvel of beauty and cheerfulness.

The most striking feature of Aloysius is its very infectious rhythm. From the very first introductory chords it hits the listener at a quickfire rate of almost 200 beats per second - and it's virtually impossible not to move along in one way or another.

The song starts out with quite a lengthy intrumental bit, during which the main musical theme is introduced. Note how it starts out ingeniously playing only the first nine beats from every sixteen, whereas later it occasionally changes to fill the entire range. The theme returns fequently, with the odd change in key.

Aloysius is not a loud song: the sound level is kept very modest and constant all through. The guitars sound very acoustic, which give the song a very merry and lighthearted character. The percussion is typical for a track from Treasure: very spatial sounding drums, only sparsely used, complemented by some creative cymbals and other light percussion. Liz never sings at full volume but keeps her vocals gentle and perfectly in line with the arrangement. A nice touch is that during some parts she sings a perfect canon with her own background vocals.

Aloysius is significant in that we find that the Cocteau Twins have entirely moved away from the "distorted guitar" concept which was so dominant on Garlands. Instead we experience beauty and harmony, something they would later work out to its full potential on Victorialand. Although very much a track in accordance with the atmosphere of Treasure, Aloysius therefore also provides us with a preview of the band's future developments.


So many Cocteau songs are built around Robin's guitar riffs and the angelic vocal parts by Liz that at times one might even forget there really was a third band member. It's songs like Cicely that make you realize how important Simon Raymonde's contributions actually were.

The roles of the different instruments on Cicely is quite interesting. In the typical style of the album percussion is abundant, though not as loud as on several other tracks. But in contrast with most tracks on Treasure guitar parts are not that prominent. Instead Simon treats us to lots of creative little keyboard loops and nicely combines them into a playful and varied soundscape.

So do all these effects make Cicely a quick or loud song? Not really. The mood of the song can be characterized as 'moderately busy'. The different elements of the song are kept just a bit apart rather than being integrated into a solid wall of sound - an unusual style for the band, considering how they specialized in blending many instruments together.

Robin still managed to insert something special - listen to what might perhaps be called the chorus and enjoy how he makes his guitar produce a terrific wail to give the song its closest moment to coherence. But it's the keyboards that really define Cicely and turn it into a successful song.


None of the melodies from Treasure are easily memorized, but Otterley stands out for having no recognizable melody at all. This soft and romantic song is about atmosphere rather then melody, rhythm or lyrics. It paints an unreal world, a twilight world where everything is hazy and unsharp.

A very gentle guitar provides the background decoration to an ever repeating string of notes. Some sounds of surf breaking on the beach are included for good measure as well. The vocals (could it be that these are in French?) are whispered, thereby adding to the general impression of mystique and intimacy.

On first hearing Otterley almost seems out of place on this album. And in fact it is rather remarkable to note that Treasure features a track as quiet and soft as this as well as hard rock tracks like Lorelei and Persephone. But on listening a few more times it becomes apparent that this song is not just by coincidence the penultimate track of the album. After several rather busy tracks the band here insert a few moments to allow us catch our breath. Otterley is definitely a worthwhile song by itself, but in the context of Treasure it is the perfect way of preparing the listener for the concluding fireworks of Donimo as well.

A few months later at a BBC Session the band performed an instrumental version of this song.


Even according to their own standards the Cocteau Twins must have felt they had to come up with a spectacular song to end their landmark Treasure album. Starting out in quiet fashion Donimo builds up to an ever more dynamic mix of erupting vocals, percussion and guitars. Lasting well over six minutes the song testifies of the bands intentions to take all the time necessary to work out all their ideas into an epic masterpiece.

The structure of Donimo is unusual, to say the least, and challenges most traditional ideas about songwriting. Surely it makes no sense to 'pause' a song just after it has started for well over a minute just to build up tension? And how can you then put another minute of quiet instrumental music into the song? And what about having three clearly different vocal themes, all being repeated throughout, still none of them can be pinned down as a chorus?

Yet all this is exactly what Donimo is about. The three themes, all featuring in both vocal and instrumental versions, are woven together so expertly that the song's unity is never in any danger. Aggressive guitars are abundant in the heavier parts, but totally absent elsewhere. Sparse but loud percussion dominates some of the quieter parts, of which there are many, since two out of the three main themes are soothing and relaxed. The loudest theme is inserted whenever the action is needed most. Thus it sparks the song into real action after the first few minutes are simply used to create an air heavy with expectation. Midway through it injects further energy after a range of quieter parts, and finally it concludes the song with vocal overdubs tumbling over each other in a burst of activity.

On such a splendid album as Treasure it may have seemed impossible the band were to continue their tradition of producing something special for the last track. But even in the context of what many regard as the best album of their career Donimo stands out as a song of exceptional quality.