Showing posts with label Elizabeth Fraser. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Elizabeth Fraser. Show all posts

The Elusive Companions: The Secret Commonwealth

We see the world through an extremely limited band of the electromagnetic spectrum. The same goes for our hearing. We consciously process a remarkably tiny proportion of the limited sensory input we receive. We are only able to measure that which can perceive. And we still don't understand exactly how or why we process anything, other than to facilitate our survival on a purely reptilian level.

There are millions of square miles of land we've never stepped foot in. There are many millions more we have only the faintest experience in. The same goes for our oceans- we're still struggling to explore the endless depths- 71% of the surface of the world is water- and are physically limited in our ability to do so. And we've barely touched the unimaginably vast network of caverns beneath the Earth.

Earthquakes, floods and tsunamis make mockery of our technological pretenses. The same great scientific minds who claim dominion over the planet would wilt in panic like frail flowers in a half-decent thunderstorm, never mind a typhoon. Though we try to ignore them, the nuclear flames of Fukushima are nothing less than a slap in the face of our Technocracy.

And yet we claim to have fully mastered and cataloged our environment and everything in it.

Since the dawn of time, humans have recorded encounters with strange beings with weird powers and even stranger means of transportation. They've been identified in various cultural trappings. Our tech-minded age chooses to see them as extraterrestrial technocrats, coming to Earth to conduct their experiments.

Those who seem to know them best didn't rely on charts and graphs but another kind of knowing. A more elusive kind of knowledge, if you will, for our elusive companions. Legendary UFOlogist Jacques Vallee wrote a book about these historical perceptions called Passport to Magonia: On UFOs, Folklore, and Parallel Worlds.

I'm quoting his citation of a landmark work on Celtic mythology. Since it's not illustrated I added in some examples of our modern folklore, which as we've seen on this site is often brought to us by individuals who often seem to know things they shouldn't know...


In the last half of the seventeenth century, a Scottish scholar gathered all the accounts he could find about the Sleagh Maith and, in 1691, wrote a manuscript bearing the title: The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies.

The Secret Commonwealth
was the first systematic attempt to describe the methods and organization of the strange creatures that plagued the farmers of Scotland.

The author, Reverend Kirk, of Aberfoyle, studied theology at St. Andrews and took his degree of professor at Edinburgh. Later he served as minister for the parishes of Balquedder and Abcrfoyle and died in 1692. It is impossible to quote the entire text of Kirk's treatise on the Secret Commonwealth, but we can summarize his findings about elves and other aerial creatures in the following way:

1. They have a nature that is intermediate between man and the angels.

2. Physically, they have very light and "fluid" bodies, which are comparable to a condensed cloud. They are particularly visible at dusk. They can appear and vanish at will.

3. Intellectually, they are intelligent and curious.

4. They have the power to carry away anything they like.

In modern fairy-lore this divine branch or wand is the magic wand of fairies; or where messengers like old men guide mortals to an underworld it is a staff or cane with which they strike the rock hiding the secret entrance.- The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries
5. They live inside the earth in caves, which they can reach through any crevice or opening where air passes.

6. When men did not inhabit most of the world, they used to live there and had their own agriculture. Their civilization has left traces on the high mountains; it was flourishing at a time when the whole countryside was nothing but woods and forests.

7. At the beginning of each three-month period, they change quarters because they are unable to stay in one place. Besides, they like to travel. It is then that men have terrible encounters with them, even on the great highways.

8. Their chameleon-like bodies allow them to swim through the air with all their household.

9. They are divided into tribes. Like us, they have children, nurses, marriages, burials, etc., unless they just do this to mock our own customs, or to predict terrestrial events.

10. Their houses are said to be wonderfully large and beautiful, but under most circumstances they are invisible to human eyes. Kirk compares them to enchanted islands. The houses are equipped with lamps that burn forever and fires that need no fuel.

11. They speak very little. When they do so, when they talk among themselves, their language is a kind of whistling sound.

12. Their habits and their language when they talk to humans are similar to those of local people.

13. Their philosophical system is based on the following ideas: nothing dies; all things evolve cyclically in such a way that at every cycle they are renewed and improved. Motion is the universal law.

14. They are said to have a hierarchy of leaders, but they have no visible devotion to God, no religion.

15. They have many pleasant and light books, but also serious and complex books, rather in the Rosicrucian style, dealing with abstract matters.

16. They can be made to appear at will before us through magic.

The Siren: Aliens, Abuse and Otherness (UPDATE 1/23)

Like several other films before it, Peter Jackson's new film The Lovely Bones features one of the central mysteries of the Secret Sun-o-verse, Elizabeth Fraser's heart-ripping cover of Tim Buckley's 'Song to the Siren' (recorded for the This Mortal Coil supergroup project). Jackson is obviously a Cocteau Twins fan- he hired Fraser to sing on the Lord on the Rings soundtracks.

He obviously hears the anguish in the song, seeing the film is a story about a murdered teenaged girl looking back on her life (shades of 'Poptones' by the recently-reformed Public Image Ltd.). Part of that pain comes from Fraser's own history as an abuse survivor, but part of it came from her essential otherness (which lent itself to Cocteau Twins EP title), which I don't know if Jackson is aware of.

I'd dare say Chris Carter understands (or intuits) both, since he namechecked This Mortal Coil in a pivotal episode of the X-Files mytharc (which dealt both with abuse and alien possession in the form of 'walk-ins') . He also had Mark Snow compose a 'Siren' soundalike for 'Scully's Theme,' which Carter had rewritten so the vocals were Fraseresque glossolalia.

My first post on Elizabeth Fraser was entitled "Irrefutable Proof of Extraterrestrial Life," but I figured back then people wouldn't appreciate the facetious tone of that, so I changed it to Not Quite Human. That's what people would think when they first heard her singing back in the day. Those aftershocks remain- the Guardian recently described her as "The voice from another world."

But that led me to dig further into her story (which a lot of her fans didn't necessarily appreciate), particularly the relationship she had with Tim Buckley's son Jeff. The funny thing is that I sensed there was much, much more to that relationship than anyone had known. It wasn't until much later that Fraser acknowledged the extent of their very secretive union.

By the time I was done with it all, the whole story seemed like mythology of the most archetypal- and tragic- variety. The synchronicities at play were stunning, as were the ever-present water and mermaid symbolism (not the least of which is the fact that Buckley drowned under the shadow of the Memphis pyramid). Which itself ties into all of the Sirius mysteries we've been puzzling over, lending the 'Siren' a resonance I wasn't consciously processing when I was first covering the story.

Indie director Gregg Araki is also obsessed with Liz, and has used Cocteau Twins songs in several of his films. Aliens (imaginary) and abuse (real) both figure in his 2004 film Mysterious Skin, which features Liz's sublime howling on the classic 'Crushed'. Araki even hired Liz's former Twin Robin Guthrie and sometime collabrator Harold Budd to score the film.

But the price of otherness is an inability to adapt to a world that is increasingly cold, cruel and soul-less. Fraser's done precious little since the Twins split in 1997. What little she has done hasn't had that life-changing alien energy of her classic 80s work, not the least of which was 'Song to the Siren'. I think Buckley's death damaged her more than we could ever know.

Given the otherworldly resonance surrounding Fraser, it's worth noting that 'Song to the Siren' was first heard on Tim Buckley's 1970 album, Starsailor. There's a lot more to this story- somewhere along the line something slipped in from outside in some way I can't explain or even describe. But that might be happening more than we might suspect.

UPDATE: Another publicity shot from the film.

UPDATE II: "Like the fish."

The Lovely Bones trailer (and soundtrack, apparently) uses another Cocteau Twins song, 'Alice'. Note the 1973 timeline- that was also the year of a major UFO wave in the US, and many of the visuals here are oddly reminiscent of abduction lore. Speaking of which, Samantha Mulder was abducted two weeks before this girl's murder in the X-Files mytharc. The 'Salmon' surname is fascinating in light of the Siren/mermaid lore, obviously.

And why was an old Seventeen magazine cover pasted in over a copy of Vogue for the publicity still? Very odd.

Mysteries within mysteries...

UPDATE III: Just heard this Siren song on Technicolor Web of Sound. While I was pondering the Ape of Thoth, interestingly enough. From the movie Head.

SYNC LOG UPDATE: Justin Timberlake performs Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' for Haiti last night, which was one of Jeff Buckley's signature songs. Cheers to Faoladh.

SYNC LOG UPDATE II (2240 EST): Just got up from documenting some synchery, walked into living room just as Lovely Bones TV trailer came on.

Winter needs more holidays (UPDATE)

Well, New Year's Eve is coming and from there on in a bleak expanse of cold, gray, short days. Christmas was wonderful (the snow stayed thick on the ground after the storm) but now there's a very February kind of rain falling out there- cold, hard, assaultive drops going out of their way to make you feel like shit. Today also begins Mercury Retrograde, one of the Astrological events I will never argue with. Things are always dicier before and after this transit, so I guess Detroit can be grateful that there aren't a lot of Astrological fundamentalist terrorists out there.

I know the Super Bowl is on the way (certainly a major holiday for many Americans) and Valentine's Day as well, but Winter - most of all of the seasons- needs more holidays. Something big and fun that we can keep all of those Christmas lights out for. I know a lot of you out there are well versed in ancient traditions- any suggestions for a big new holiday? Maybe something in the late January time period? Or maybe it can be something new - any fictional winter holidays in any popcult phenoms I'm not aware of? Something in Warcraft perhaps?

New York was supposed to have its big convention in February, but NYCC's been moving the dates around (possibly because the Javits area is frost giantly cold that time of year). But that's obviously not going to be observed by non-geeks. I don't know- I got nothing. So the floor is open. As is the culture, I might add. Never understimate the power of a good idea to fill a powerful need, and that gloomy stretch of cold darkness (at least for us Northern Hemisphere folk) desperately needs a little pick-me-up.

UPDATE: Well, maybe '10 will be a better year than '09.† Last year at this time we looked at a string of synchronicities surrounding a so-called "Christmas miracle" that turned out to be quite a bit less than miraculous once the banner headlines died down. This year we had a startling story of a girl abducted in Phoenix named Natalie Flores and rescued later that evening.

This drama caught my eye straight off because Natalie means 'Christmas Day'. And the whole drama took place in the shadow of I-17 (and in the old neighborhood of Twilight writer Stephanie Meyer, near a system of caves sacred to local tribes). The kidnapper was apprehended on Thunderbird Rd., the Thunderbird being a protective shapeshifter* in Native American mythology, similar to the Garuda, another protective bird-man resonating Horus, also associated with 17 (and Christmas Day, for that matter).

Christmas is 1/7 in the Eastern Orthodox calendar, as we see in this story. Behind the Name tells us this about the name 'Natalie':
This was the name of the wife of the 4th-century martyr Saint Adrian of Nicomedia. She is venerated as a saint in the Orthodox Church, and the name has traditionally been more common among Eastern Christians than those in the West.
Again, all of this was obviously overlooked because of the Northwest Air incident (and was resolved before it had much time to register), but I'm going to put this nice little semiotic jumble in my GOF (good omen folder).

Which has been pretty empty lately, it must be said.

† When I was a kid I always saw Christmas as a harbinger for the year to come. Good Christmas, good year, bad Christmas, etc.
*The Sioux believed that the Thunderbirds defeated a race of reptilian water monsters, similar to Apophis. Or the Silurians, for that matter.

A Short History of Goth

Well, tonight is cold, rainy and oppressive- what better time to get out the old Goth videos? Like so many memes from my youth, Goth has now been mainstreamed, particularly with the smash success of Twilight and True Blood. Which brings it all full circle, since the Goth aesthetic drew heavily on vampire mythology and Hammer horror films. I'll be delving into my hare-brained theories on the vampire archetype in the future, but now I just wanna rock and roll...

Believe it or not, Goth wasn't originally about sensitive art students posing drearily with their clove cigarettes- it was pretty fierce back in the day. Originally a subgenre of Punk, Goth was for fans who thought the Pistols and the Clash were too conservative. The godmother of it all is Susan Ballion, aka Siouxsie Sioux, the long-limbed, omnisexual ice queen who formed the Banshees with then-boyfriend Steve Severin. Siouxsie had a very clear vision in her mind, combining the Velvet Underground's more extreme musical adventures and Grace Slick's twisted sensuality with Hammer horror movies and a heaping helping of witchery. The guitar sound of John's McKay and McGeoch was explicitly influenced by the shrieking string sections in horror flicks like Psycho.

This is a Goth two-for: Cure guitarist Robert Smith during one of his stints as a Banshee. This song, "Painted Bird," is off A Kiss in the Dreamhouse, which also features "Slowdive," one of Rock's greatest paeans to oral sex.

Then there was the mighty Bauhaus, one of the greatest singles bands of all time. Essentially a Bowie tribute band at heart, as evidenced by this awesome clip. Bauhaus added the requisite dose of Hammer horror and post-punk yowling and then broke up way too soon. They have since reformed a couple times to remind young pretenders how it's done.

Then there's this band, who longtime Secret Sun readers are well-acquainted with. Killing Joke brought a serious interest in occultism to Goth, as well as heavy doses of metal guitar, dub bass and tribal drums. Probably one of the most influential bands of their time. As with Bauhaus, their early concerts were not for the faint of heart.

Goth waxed and waned throughout the 80s. The second wave came with the Batcave scene, which peaked in 1983. Note that alien themes started to blend in with the usual vampire imagery.

As with this band, Alien Sex Fiend. As with Goth in general, the Fiends were heavily influenced by Alice Cooper and similarly made up for their lack of chops with their extreme exuberance. In many ways, the Fiends were the definitive Batcave band. For some completely inexplicable reason, some journalist tagged the new Goth scene "positive Punk," which sort of stuck even though it made no sense to anyone.

And speaking of aliens, the Cocteau Twins caucused with the Batcavers before their camomile-and-patchouli makeover in the late 80s. Liz is almost unrecognizable here in her Goth gear and Siouxsie-esque warble. But it just goes to show that the Banshees seemed to strike a particularly strong chord in Scotland (see Altered Images, Shirley Manson, etc.) Bonus factoid: The Twins were opening for Killing Joke at this gig.

Goth made a big impact in Europe as well, eventually having a major influence on the Black Metal scene of the 90s. This is Germany's X-Mal Deutschland, who were signed to 4AD, along with the Cocteaux and Bauhaus. Listening to their early records you'd have no idea their lead singer was so ridiculously hot.

Australia's Dead Can Dance were signed to 4AD as well, and brought a heavy dose of Medieval mysticism to their Banshees/Cocteaux knockoffs. They dropped the postpunk in pretty short order, but ultimately morphed into another tedious world music outfit before their initial brekup. Singer Lisa Gerrard co-wrote the soundtrack to Gladiator, among other films.

Cock-rock journeymen The Cult began their career as Southern Death Cult, eventually dropping the "Southern" and the "Death" along with every band member save Ian Astbury. For me the entire enterprise peaked with Love, which I still count as one of the greatest albums of the 80s.

With bands like the Cult, All About Eve and the Mission, Goth went mainstream in the UK and Europe. One of the bands keeping the old faith was Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, who were heavily influenced by proto-Goth post-punks Joy Division. A good thing too, since JD survivors New Order were warbling monotone disco songs at the time.

Then there were the Sisters of Mercy, who started out as a parody band, got serious, went through several reformations, then ended up as an unintentional parody, working with Sigue Sigue poseur Tony James and Meatloaf maestro Jim Steinman in 1990. Here's their greatest song, one of the crucial cuts from Goth's Golden Age.

As with Punk, Goth took hold in the ostensibly hostile soil of LA, and pretty early on at that. Punk bands like TSOL, 45 Grave and Christian Death all traded in leather and guyliner, but for my money this Kommunity FK track was the definitive LA Goth anthem. FK singer Patrick Mata had an amazing voice, and they get extra authenticity brownie points for naming their debut LP after Crowley's memoirs of his fiddling with Enochian magic.

What do get when you cross Siouxsie Sioux with Eddie Van Halen? Why, you get Jane's Addiction, whose best numbers were all built around Eric Avery's Banshee-esque basslines. Jane's paid their debt to their forebears when they brought the Banshees along on the first Lollapalooza.

Brooklyn's mighty Type O Negative took one part Black Sabbath, one part Sisters of Mercy and one part old-school 4AD and have put out a lot of killer music with that recipe. This video is interesting because it shows how Goth left the Punk/Art sphere and moved into the RenFaire/Fantasy/D&D realm and never looked back. Not necessarily Type O themselves, but certainly the movement.

Since the mid-90s Goth has itself splintered into a number of different permutations, and even launched a retail chain. In the interim we saw Marilyn Manson and the expected hysteria and rumor panic in the wake of Columbine. And as mentioned before we now have all of this vampire stuff out there, a lot of which is inspired by The Hunger, which featured not only Bauhaus in the opening credits, but proto-Goth godfather David Bowie. But it's the underpinnings of that archetype that fascinate me, as well as its antithesis- the zombie archetype. Both have their roots in deep sociopolitical mass psychology, as I'll rant and rave about sometime.

Alien Identity and the Beauty Destruction Industry

What the hell is that disk in the background?

My god, this is fascinating. I had only seen brief bits of Karen Carpenter playing the drums, but I had no idea she was this kind of virtuoso.
Coming from a pretty hardcore musical family (and being a former musician myself), I can tell you that as players the Carpenters were drop-dead pros with impeccable chops. The lyrics to this musical number are very revealing as well, with the androgynous, ectomorphic Richard staying at home playing classical music while the androgynous, ectomorphic Karen was a "tomboy" who took up the traditionally male instrument of the drums (apparently she was big on softball as well).

It also rips my guts out. I confess to a strong Gnostic streak, and often see this miserable world as an abortion that celebrates the talentless, the narcissistic and the mean-spirited, and grinds the truly gifted into the dirt. Or in Karen's case, whittles them away to nothingness.

And in the context of the Secret Sun, it often seems as if people such as Karen (and Elizabeth Fraser with her Siren/Sirian identity and language) are aliens, even somewhat in their appearance. After all, we've heard thousands of reports of androgynous, ectomorphic aliens, haven't we?

Slightly earthier-looking than Bowie actually was in '76

Jimi Hendrix certainly comes to mind, Jeff Buckley and David Bowie as well, though for some reason he survived his death trip by escaping to Berlin in 1977 (Bowie was obviously less conflicted about the gender ambiguity that seems to come with the territory with these genius/alien types). Hendrix and Bowie were obsessed and identified with aliens and UFOs and Jeff Buckley recorded his own invocation to the aliens entitled "Ozark Melody." Which all links us back to the Carpenters' interstellar invocation.


If you want proof that Hollywood is inherently evil, look at it what it does to beautiful women. There's an army of overpaid, coked-up stylists preying on insecure celebrities, convincing them that they need to become botoxed, fish-lipped stick insects if they want to stay "hot." There's a whole host of starlets I lusted over back in the 80s, and
not too many of them have become handsome middle-aged women. They've become freaks of science. I often wonder if these stylists aren't actually out to destroy these women out of some psychotic jealousy fixation.

Although I believe that Karen Carpenter had some personal, identity-based issues she was struggling with (again, par for the course with these alien types) it was some asshole record executive telling her the reason the Carpenters weren't scoring hits in the late 70s was because of her womanly hips which triggered her descent into a horrifying life of anorexia and bulimia that took this preternaturally-talented woman away from us. We see this over and over today with celebrity eating disorders.

Gillian "Alien Isis" Anderson escaped Hollywood and preserved her beauty

The sheer insanity of this is that full hips are one of the top fertility signals to men, as is a pleasing layer of well-toned flesh, particularly in the face. Though never a great beauty, Karen Carpenter looked perfectly handsome when healthy and positively alien when she was skinny. I really wish the message would get through to the beauty-destruction industry in Tinseltown.

The Siren: Brendan Fraser/Elizabeth Fraser

The last great wave of music video revolved around the Techno movement of the late 90s. It was a musical revolution that never really came, but it marked the use of computer technology coming into its own in the service of video spots. Oftentimes, the videos were much more interesting than the songs they accompanied.

This video- "Lifeforms" by the Future Sounds of London- is fascinating for two reasons. First of all, it reflects an aesthetic that reminds me of Synchromystic philosophy in general, and some of the video work that Jake Kotze and Steve Willner have done in particular. It calls to mind the Entheological worldview, something that was certainly compatible with the rave culture that spawned videos such as this.

Second of all, the video itself is yet another piece in a real-life Synchromystic manifestation I've chronicled on the Secret Sun, that being the tragic romance of Elizabeth Fraser and Jeff Buckley, and how the Siren archetype played into that drama. This song came out around the same time Buckley and Fraser began their relationship and hearing her glossolalia accompany yet more underwater imagery on the single version of this song (which can be seen here) is chilling in hindsight. The constant repetition of the Siren archetype in relation to Fraser in general, and to Fraser and Buckley's relationship in particular would almost be ridiculous, had the story's end not been so heartbreaking.

Speaking of Steve Willner, his latest videos touch upon the very rich symbolic strands of Brendan Fraser's career. Brendan Fraser seems to be the symbolic counterpoint to the real-life dramas of Elizabeth Fraser - his eternally resurrecting Osiris to her eternally mourning Isis.

In the above clip from 2001's Monkeybone, Fraser plays a comatose cartoonist named Stu Miley who descends into the underworld after a car accident on a rain soaked street highly reminiscent of Osiris' journey to death on the Nile - or Jeff Buckley's journey to death on the Mississsippi. There Fraser meets Miss Kitty, played by Marilyn Manson's former squeeze (and TV witch) Rose McGowan.

The Bast-resonating Kitty is decked out not only with an ankh, but a revealing top decorated with the falcon form of Horus and his Sun Disk. Extremely strange attire in the context of the story, but a perfect foreshadowing of Stu's resurrection. Stu is the pet form of Stuart, which recalls the Scottish House of Stuart, whose restoration to the British throne was a cause celebre for certain Masonic sects. Almost predictably, Stu's companion/alter ego/Id is a Thoth-resonating primate.

Speaking of water, Irish legend has it that Saint Brendan crossed the Atlantic Ocean with 17 other monks. The name Brendan means "Prince," which of course Horus is. So we have fresh evidence here of Egyptian Mystery symbolism having an influence on the early Celtic church.

I still have to finish up the Eloah-Isis-Beth Fraser series, even though the entire story has been told. If you haven't yet, check out the posts in chronological order. The appearance of archetypes from the ancient dramas makes the heart-rending synchronicity of the story all the more compelling to me. When I lay it all out in bullet point format I hope you guys will agree.

Not-Quite-Human: Crushed

Yet another eerily revealing still from a Cocteau Twins video

Both vocally and verbally, Elizabeth Fraser showed herself to be highly adept at wielding the archetypes. There were times when she seemed like Circe or Hecate, summoming unknowable entities simply with the sound of her voice. But just as with Jung, there's a danger in putting yourself so deep within the Dreamstream.

After being hospitalized for a nervous breakdown, Fraser emerged in 1994 spouting all the right therapeutic happy-talk in her interviews, but sounding completely psychotic onstage. This was all the more remarkable given the massive publicity push the band received that year, appearing on several different major TV shows.

From a 1995 Alternative Press piece:
Parenthood has clearly reordered Fraser's thinking, as has the self-examination she's undertaken since she had a nervous breakdown in 1993 while working on Four-Calendar Cafe.

"Everything ground to a halt," she explains. "I didn't know what was wrong with me." Entering a treatment facility in the U.S., she was admitted to a trauma unit and confronted both herself and those around her with some hard truths.

"I got told I was big-time co-dependent. I found out I was bulimic. I found out what I went through is called incest," she says. Deeply buried childhood memories became clearer. "You know, memories of being abused by people with no face. All you do is just cover up for those people, even while you're trying to remember."

When you're fresh off of a full-scale nervous breakdown, that's probably not the best time to go on The Tonight Show. I saw this when it first aired and was heartbroken. I had lost interest in the band at this point in time, but wasn't prepared for this kind of public meltdown. This was like watching a Saturday Night Live parody of the Cocteau Twins, only it wasn't remotely funny. Despite all of her empowerment therapy talk, Fraser seemed to be coming apart at the seams in public.

I can't help but wonder, in this moment of profound spiritual crisis was that Other Thing running the show? Fraser seems in thrall to, that's not right. She doesn't even seem like she's there. And when her eyes are open in that clip she looks completely bewildered. And then the eyes shut and the weird Yoko/exotic bird noises resume completely disregarding the melody or the rhythm or the lyrics of the song.

I'm not an expert on the topic (in fact I'm downright uninformed on it), but I can't imagine that "walk-ins" drop in on happy souls with pleasant lives, and nothing is more damaging to a psyche than sexual abuse. But the backstory is instructive, because I begin to see the crucial period of the Cocteau Twins as this dance between two wounded souls - Fraser and her addicted husband Robin Guthrie - channeling much deeper energies in their own way and having a profound influence on many others' lives.

No matter what beauty it manifests, a collaboration based so deeply in emotional turmoil will eventually run aground, and those energies will find new places to go. But the greater story- and the synchronistic footprints it has left- is what we have to understand and incorporate into our own lives.

Fraser would regain her voice and return to form in 1996. But as we've seen, an otherworldly tragedy would visit itself upon her the following year. And then there is this strange publicity photo that's recently surfaced, that I don't know what the hell to make of.

The Siren, Part 5: Death, My Bride

On May 29, 1997 Jeff Buckley said his last goodbye to this mortal coil in the roiling waters of the Mississippi. That river, which has given birth to so many classic American songs, has a vicious undertow beneath its placid surface.

Buzzing on the triumph of his new music and the impending arrival of his compatriots, Buckley sought to baptize himself in those legendary waters. He didn't realize he was actually swimming towards the Siren that took his father down to her two decades before.

This BBC documentary brilliantly tells the story of that horrible night:

There's nowhere else this story could have ended but in Memphis, Tennessee. There's no street but Beale from which Jeff Buckley would heed the Siren's call. There's no band but Led Zeppelin that could have been the musical accompaniment to their deathly summons, no other song than their demonic hijacking of "Whole Lotta Love." And the Pyramid is just the cherry on top.

The skies over Memphis became pitch black that night, as rescuers searched for Buckley, and a violent electrical storm soon tore that blackness into shreds. Columbia executive Steve Berkowitz looked up at the violent sky and the enormous pyramid and felt he had been transported to the River Styx. He was half-right. Hell is a movable feast, and that night it descended on Memphis.

On that fateful night, Fraser's Rilkean Dreams would be transformed from a love letter into nothing less than a dire prophecy of Buckley's fate.

Three thousand miles away, Fraser was in the studio with Massive Attack, guesting on tracks for their landmark album, Mezzanine. In hindsight, there is no other song Elizabeth Fraser could have been singing while her onetime lover was pulled beneath the River Styx than the surreal lament, 'Teardrop.' This story began in tears and had to end in them.

Water, water, everywhere.

The imagery of the 'Teardrop' video is mesmerizing- a fetus singing in Fraser's voice while swimming in the waters of Creation- a symbolic new life from tragic death. Full circle. The song would go on to become a modern classic, and would be used in numerous commercials and in the opening credits to Fox TV's House MD.

There's something else at play, some poetic -or mythic- ending, beneath the exoteric narrative. Something floating around the Symbolic Realm. I can just see it in Euripides and Aeschylus.

It goes like this: A beautiful and talented young troubador gets drunk on his own charisma and thoughtlessly toys with a delicate soul who is playing host to something that crossed over from the Other Side. Two thousand years ago, the omens and portents would have been recognized by everyone, from old women to schoolchildren. They would have warned him- don't break the Siren's heart.

As of this writing, Elizabeth Fraser has released only one solo record- a limited-edition single- since walking out on the Cocteau Twins while recording their followup to Milk and Kisses in 1997.

It's called "Underwater."

Fraser has since withdrawn the single and has fought against its online dissemination.

To Be Concluded

Not-Quite-Human: Multiple Choice

A very interesting video, perhaps a revealing one. Key lyric "I had to fantasize just to survive." That image of mature sobriety would soon be shattered, however.

Key frame:

As usual, the director seems to be telling us something about the nature of this woman. Note also that she is always very self-conscious about flashing those unsettlingly-alien eyes of hers.

My question to all of you out there is this- why is the concept of twins so important in the esoteric tradition? After all, this is a trio that calls themselves the Cocteau Twins. Bonus factoid: Cocteau himself died on the 11th...

To Be Continued

The Siren, Part 4: Theft, And Wandering Around Lost

The chronology is very hard to pin down, but it seems that Rilkean Dreams had an effect. At some point in 1996 Buckley and Fraser reunited. Appropriately, they left a musical breadcrumb trail, including the passionate Solar love song, "All Flowers in Time Bend Towards the Sun," reportedly recorded that year. It had been a very long time since Fraser's fans had heard this kind of ecstasy in her voice.

In contrast to the heartbroken Twinlights and the enervated, evaporated sound of the Otherness EP, the Twins' 1996 release, Milk and Kisses, was full of raw, orgasmic enthusiasm. While nowhere on par with the band's seminal 4AD work, the album literally climaxed with the magnificent "Seekers Who Are Lovers," in which Fraser breathlessly sings of "saliva" and "sweet sex" and a "magic love" that "flashes like the Sun" and "fills you up and you get reborn."
This love would even "send Lucifer to Hell."

In the same verse she boasted of "the breath of God in my mouth" a reference to the legendary exclamation from the Melody Maker that Fraser had "the Voice of God." Even the mopey Twinlights tracks got luscious revamps. On Milk, Fraser dedicated "love and a thousandfold rose" to Buckley, a frankly erotic and suitably poetic exclamation if ever there was one. It must have been quite a reconciliation for her.

For his part, Buckley wrote a song called "Morning Theft," about his and Fraser's reconciliation for his in-progress sophomore album, My Sweetheart the Drunk. Sprinkled throughout the lyrics are apparent references to Cocteau Twins songs ("Theft, And Wondering Around Lost" was a song on the then-most recent Cocteau Twins album). Buckley also mentions Fraser's daughter in the lyrics, lamenting that,

There's no relief in this
I miss my beautiful friend

I had to send it away
To bring her back again

But it seems the relationship may have drifted apart again. Fraser embarked on a lengthy world tour for Milk and Kisses, though she seemed quite animated and happy throughout. The intensely private nature of the relationship makes all of this very hard to sort out. Buckley also had an on-again, off-again relationship with a singer named Joan Wasser, and apparently they were on again in 1997.

The stress of touring and promoting his debut album had given Buckley a case of writer's block and he moved down to Memphis, Tennessee to work on songs for Sweetheart, which were slow in coming. He locked himself in a room in a boarding house with his guitar and a four-track recorder. After an arduous process of reconnecting with his muse, Buckley excitedly called his band down to Memphis to begin rehearsals on his new songs.

Buckley may not have thought twice that the video Fraser made for him opened with a rushing river, but did he think that in the opening track on the album she dedicated to him she seems to be singing "be careful, Love/be careful, Love" beneath all the glossolalia?

To Be Continued

Please Give Me a Time Machine

Cocteau Twins and the Smiths on back to back nights in a tiny club in Manhattan? Are you KIDDING me?

A door opened in 1984- everyone felt it. There were incredible energies flying around in the air above our heads. It was so brief and fleeting- but absolutely exhilarating.

No one realized it at the time, but it was actually the end of a cycle when everyone thought it was the beginning. But that's the Janus Point- the moments in time when the revolving door turns and all sorts of interesting things slip in before it closes again. The aftershocks lasted for a while longer, but sloppy seconds are never fun. It was like that in 1979, the real start of the 80's. After that, 1980 itself was a major letdown in comparison.

Now, please read the Siren series and see how myth becomes reality right under everyone's noses.

The Siren, Part 3: Sea, Swallow Me

Smitten by her luminescent interpretation of his father's song, Jeff Buckley sought out Elizabeth Fraser while he was working on his debut LP for Columbia Records, Grace. Sometime around 1994, he and Fraser began a passionate, whirlwind affair.

There was something tragic about Buckley from the very start. An uncanny mirror image of his father, the prodigiously talented singer also exuded a delicate androgyny, often interpreting songs by divas like Billie Holliday, Judy Garland, Nina Simone and Fraser herself in his legendary sets at New York's landmark Irish cafe, Sin-e. Fraser referred to this in one of her many songs about Buckley, 'Seekers Who Are Lovers,' singing "you are a woman just as you are a man."

Buckley also worshiped Led Zeppelin and seemed at times to be the embodiment of both Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. Both men returned the compliment and became ardent admirers of the young singer. Later, their music would play a chilling role in Buckley's story.

Fiercely protective of Fraser's privacy, Buckley denied the two were an item. And at some point in 1995 they broke up. Fraser, an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse, spoke obliquely of the relationship in 1995 when the Cocteau Twins released their EP Twinlights.
"...when the Twins went on tour in 1994, Fraser fell in love. "My love addiction was worse than ever. I was maniacal," she confesses.
"The EP is about that man," she says of Twinlights. "My last goodbye, as it were. I was too needy and he was too much of an avoidance person. Naturally."

Twinlights finds Fraser voicing words of self-reliance and comfort. When she panics, she says she feels about five years old. "You kind of go back to the age when you were being abused," she explains. Singing helps her soothe her younger self.

"There's some of that going on in 'Rilkean Heart': 'You're lost and don't know what to do/But that's not all of you.' It's all a bit corny, really. It's really simple language; it's how you have to speak to yourself at that age. That's the part of me that's so hungry."

"Last Goodbye," of course, was Buckley's first single.

Struggling to keep her composure (and barely succeeding), Fraser finally broke the silence of her and Buckley's relationship in a landmark BBC documentary on the late singer:
"I mean he idolized me before he met me. It's kind of creepy and I, I was like that with him. This is embarrassing but it's the truth. I just couldn't help falling in love with him. He was adorable.

"I read his diaries, he read mine, you know we'd just swap, we'd literally just hand over this very personal stuff and I've never done that with anybody else. I don't know if he has. So in some ways it was very, there was a great deal of intimacy but then there'd be times when I'd just think 'oh no, I'm just not penetrating this Jeff Buckley boy at all.' "

Already struggling with dealing with her childhood abuse, Fraser was crushed by the split. In conjunction with Twinlights, the Cocteau Twins also released a long-form video called Rilkean Dreams in 1995.

In reality a nakedly-confessional video love-letter to Jeff Buckley, Fraser apologizes to him in Rilkean Dreams for her self-confessed "love addiction." The songs are significant because Fraser is singing in plain English and the lyrics are flashed on screen. Knowing the backstory as we do now, the video is almost heart-wrenchingly tragic. The love Fraser felt for Buckley is excruciatingly powerful- legendary, even - you can feel it still after all these years.

And if you know the end of this story, the very first shot of Rilkean Dreams should put ice in your veins.

The Siren, Part 2: Let Me Enfold You

The very same year that Elizabeth Fraser sang her songs to the Siren and Lorelei, she also was seen singing the eternal classic "Pearly Dewdrops Drop" in this video. This is my Cocteau Twins, from the period when they alchemically recombined post-punk hammering and piercing, otherworldly yowling to bring ecstatic, gut-ripping beauty into this miserable world. I could listen to this song for the rest of my life and not get sick of it.

Startlingly, the imagery summoned by "Song to the Siren" and "Lorelei" is made manifest here. Fraser is repeatedly seen as a spectral figure hovering over the water, summoning the men on the shores to swim with her in the ancient and eternal waters forever and forever, so mote it be.

This shot is like something from a King Arthur picture, with Fraser as the Lady of the Lake. Yet the cuts go by so quickly you don't even notice the juxtapositions.

Time and again Fraser's image is superimposed on water, or on mythological figures such as saints or angels.

The juxapositions the director creates using fades and dissolves in this video create the impression of a narrrative. At 2:06 he zooms in on a fish in the stained glass, the next second he zooms in on a woman's face, then fades in on Fraser.

I wonder what he was getting at?

In the end, what the director seems to be saying with these overlaps is what nearly every receptive individual was thinking at the time:

"This chick ain't from around here."

Astonishingly, this homemade video draws upon the very same themes. Though not quite as smoothly as in "Pearly," Elizabeth Fraser's face is dissolved back and forth into the image of a dolphin. These things just seem to take on a reality of their own, don't they?

Next: Jeff Buckley seeks out the Siren....

The Siren, Part 1: Swim to Me

And so it began. With a band name taken from Hamlet- the Shakespeare Company's most portentious drama- and a song written by a doomed, modern day Celtic bard in honor of the great destroyer of men, the Eternal Drama found a new, real-world expression in the voice of Elizabeth Fraser, the not-quite-human Scottish thrush who would enchant not only David Lynch, but also the son of the song's composer. The album title was simply the icing on the cake- It Will End In Tears.

Which it most certainly did.

This performance by "Siren" composer Tim Buckley was taken from the March 25, 1968 episode of The Monkees TV show, whose plotline is like something out of James Shelby Downard:

"Mijacogeo" (1968)

Micky, Mike and Peter find that Peter and all their neighbors have been hypnotized by their Television sets. The Evil Wizard Glick is using an alien Frodis to control people's minds through his machines (such as the Freeble Energizer) and plans to take over the world. Worst of all, The Monkees are prohibited by law to change into their Monkeemen alter ego's and even the chant Micky learned from a cereal box-top backfires on them - Internet Movie Database

The same year that Fraser recorded "Song to the Siren" with This Mortal Coil, she also sang a song called "Lorelei" on the Cocteau Twins' album, Treasure. It's unknown as to whether Fraser realized the name Lorelei referred to a German version of the Siren, who lived in the Rhine River and would lure fisherman to their death with the sound of her singing.

Fraser's magic would enter the meme-stream through the side door. Hearing her version of "Siren," David Lynch was hellbent on using it in Blue Velvet:
"I heard the song in the 80's and I'm not sure whether it was '85, but I really pretty desperately wanted to use it in Blue Velvet and it was tied up in some sort of legal thing, or it was either that or something involving a lot of money and we couldn't get it. And it broke my heart, but on the other hand not having This Mortal Coil "Song to the Siren" led me to Angelo Badalamenti and Angelo, you know, I've worked with ever since. Angelo really brought me into the world of music, right into the middle of it."

"...the alternative was "Mysteries Of Love", that Angelo wrote and I fell in love with. I didn't think I would, I thought, there's a million songs, how can Angelo write something that is going to take the place of this, and it was strange. It took the place of it, and continued this great, great, relationship I have with Angelo."

Undaunted, Lynch later used Fraser's rendition in Lost Highway.

To Be Continued

Not-Quite-Human: The Circled X

Earlier, I showed the Circled X motif in the video for "Tishbite" and how it semiotically links the Cocteau Twins to The X -Files. I thought I should post the video, so you can see how it features in the visuals. For future reference, also note how the video ends with an underwater shot. This was the Cocteau Twins' final music video.

Here is an earlier depiction of the Circled X, in the Mithraic "Cross of Light." This is the very same symbol that Maxentius' troops had emblazoned upon their shields at the Milvian Bridge...

This website explains the significance of the circled X and its origins in the Zodiac. Speaking of Solar deities, note that 'Tishbite' was the description assigned to the Bible's version of Helios....

Not-Quite-Human: The Millennium Show

This song was first performed by Elizabeth Fraser with Peter Gabriel in the Millennium Dome in the year 2000.

In the first stanza, Elizabeth sings:

I looked up at the tallest building
Felt it falling down
I could feel my balance shifting
Everything was moving around
These streets so fixed and solid
A shimmering haze
And everything that I relied on disappeared

Where there's fire, there's smoke...

Not-Quite-Human: The Eyes Have It

Not-Quite-Human: The Footprints

Note: In The Mothman Prophecies, John Keel wrote of eyewitness accounts of the 'Men in Black.' Many witnesses described them as being "not quite human," and said that their behavior seemed "wrong" somehow, like they didn't know how real people were supposed to act. They also mentioned that the MIB's often had strange eyes. Keep all that in mind before watching this video. Never mind the voice and the language...

To prepare you for the real-time mythological drama we are going to soon be looking at, let's look at the footprints of Ms. Fraser on the Symbolic Realm.

In the last post we looked at the semiotic links between Elizabeth Fraser and The X-Files, which I'm sure a lot of you might find tenuous. However, you need to realize that when the Cocteau Twins first were heard, the first reaction I heard from everyone- myself included- was "she's not human." People used terms like 'ghost' or 'witch,' but by far the most common description of Ms. Fraser was 'alien.' Chris Carter is a big fan of Nature's great instrument- the female singing voice- and probably had much the same reaction that people like David Lynch and others like Prince and Brian Eno had when first hearing her sing, particularly if it were her crucial work from the '83-'86 period.

Seeing that Carter is a semiotic cryptographer of the first order, it wouldn't surprise me at all if Gibson Praise's name is indeed a nod to Elizabeth Fraser- he's quite clear that he uses encoded references in his writing. And he did sneak in a reference to This Mortal Coil when discussing the concept of 'walk-ins" the over-riding spiritual concept of The X-Files in 'Red Museum.' And the links get a lot less tenuous when we look at the last music video the Cocteau Twins made, which is riddled with an inexplicable, recurring circled 'X.'

Which is the same motif we see in the X-Files logo...

Thinking about The X-Files always makes me think of Millennium and Elizabeth Fraser sang with Peter Gabriel for his big Millennium Dome production, Ovo & The Millennium Show. This, of course, is where Led Zeppelin recently made their triumphant return, led by Cocteau Twins fan Robert Plant.

I can't think of the Millennium without thinking about 9/11, and here we get another semiotic hit- Elizabeth Fraser sang "Isengard Unleashed" on the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers soundtrack, the theme leading to the unforgettable siege of Helm's Deep.

These are just cute little winks, sort of a semiotic breadcrumb trail. It's important to show how themes impact on the Symbolic Realm- I always say that where there's fire, there's smoke. But all of this is nothing compared to the synchronistic maelstrom that played out around Ms. Fraser over ten years ago...


No, I'm not being facetious. Well, maybe a little.

The X-Files was originally meant to last five seasons. In the episode titled 'The End,' Chris Carter introduced us to a character named Gibson Praise, who had psychic powers and alien DNA. As Secret Sun readers should expect by now, Carter used a Jack Kirby derived image to visually signal Gibson's alien origin. The name 'Gibson' ultimately comes from the Germanic name Giselbert (mean "bright hostage," which of course Gibson Praise became).

The X-Files'
living proof of alien intervention in human life, Giselbert Praise, reminds me a lot of my own candidate for evidence of possible alien/interdimensional intervention, Elizabeth Fraser (say both names together). It's hard to remember what an pulverising effect her music with the Cocteau Twins had among the cognoscenti in the early 80s. Suffice it to say that Fraser's incandescent singing cast a spell on no less a mystic master than David Lynch, who wanted to use her version of Tim Buckley's 'Song to the Siren' in Blue Velvet, which she had sung on the first album by This Mortal Coil. Funny how Weird travels in packs.

Look at this performance of Fraser's musical love letter to Tim Buckley's son Jeff. Look at her eyes and listen to what she's singing and tell me what you see there. Very strange, even in the context of avant-pop. God knows what the hell she is singing in between the little snippets of English she is kind enough to include in her lyrics, but she certainly is extremely passionate about it.

Bonus factoid: Carter further paid tribute to Fraser when he insisted that X-Files composer Mark Snow replace the English lyrics in 'Scully's Theme' with Fraserian glossolalia.