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 something...no, 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.