The first words on Sun Signature’s extended EP, “the opening of a window onto rapture”, are an apt description of what is to follow. When the original EP was released in 2022, it marked the first new music from Elizabeth Fraser for 13 years. Blessed with one of the few voices that could genuinely be described as unique, her otherworldly qualities had been central to the Cocteau Twins and her take on Tim Buckley’s ‘Song to the Siren’ with This Mortal Coil could have copyrighted the word “spellbinding”.

In Sun’s Signature, she is joined by life-partner, Damon Reece, the drummer with Massive Attack, another act with a distinctive and trailblazing sound who Fraser collaborated with on their biggest hit, ‘Teardrop’. The process of compiling the five songs for the original EP was high on detail with constant re-editing and re-recording of component parts inspired by the soundtrack work of Bernard Herrmann and John Barry. Bass clarinets, sustainer guitars and otherworldly synthesisers create melodic layers and percussive ballast is provided by swathes of timpani, vibraphone, celeste, dulcimer and cimbalom.

From opener ‘Underwater’ onwards, Fraser’s voice is undamaged by time, even in a higher register than previously, reminiscent of ‘The Kick Inside’ era Kate Bush. The song starts all twinkly, lullaby like, before adding beats and layered synths until it whirls and circles, twists and soars with beautiful grace.

‘Golden Air’ also begins with fragile, caressing vocals before imperceptibly adding layers and bears the imprint of Steve Hackett’s sweeping sustained guitar sounds, Genesis’ ‘The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway’ being an influence on the album. ‘Bluedusk’ starts with timpani drums, before introducing restrained orchestral strings as Fraser gently sings, “Daughter, I kiss you / Always hold you / Ah! To treasure you with all my child”.

For the lyrics, Fraser drew on her studies of poetry and painting to create a collage-like method, apparent in the reference to cherry blossom on ‘Apples’ with its “triumph of summer of sound, of summer o’er silence”. In its closing section, it has the evocatively phonetic but conventionally meaningless sounds that characterised Cocteau Twins lyrics (“Sing-ho, Oriole, Tretemolo, Empemblon, Skyliblong”). Delivery is so important. On ‘Make Lovely the Day’, it is easy to imagine “Be clear, my deed! / Be pure, my heart” delivered in the plummy tones of a thespian treading the boards at the Old Vic whereas Fraser’s hushed singing gives much greater impact, especially accompanied by Hackett’s succulent Spanish guitar.

After all the work put into carefully constructing these songs, they then offered carte blanche to various artists to remix them. With songs so rich in detail, it is a challenge what elements of the original to retain and emphasise. Of the six remixes featured, Hinako Omori creates the best by taking a literal interpretation of ‘Underwater’ using the sound of bubbling water merging into a chorus mini fanfare.

LUMP (Laura Marling and Mike Lindsay) gives ‘Bluedusk’ a synth pop sheen. Gwenno adds percussive rhythm to ‘Golden Air’, initially suggesting it might burst into ‘I Feel Love’, while CUTS give it rattling electronic percussiveness. Will Gregory’s remix of ‘Apples’ highlights its baroque and orchestral qualities while John Grant’s version embellishes it with some of the bass frequency flourishes that have been evident on his recent releases.

At the risk of appearing greedy, such is the near perfection of the original Sun’s Signature versions, it would have been lovely to have a full album of new songs. The remixes are an interesting addition but are comparatively inessential.

Sun’s Signature: Sun’s Signature Extended – Out 25th August 2023 (Partisan)

Signature – Underwater (Official Lyric Video) – YouTube

I was editor of the long-running fanzine, Plane Truth, and have subsequently written for a number of publications. While the zine was known for championing the most angular independent sounds, performing in recent years with a community samba percussion band helped to broaden my tastes so that in 2021 I am far more likely to be celebrating an eclectic mix of sounds and enthusing about Made Kuti, Anthony Joseph, Little Simz and the Soul Jazz Cuban compilations as well as Pom Poko and Richard Dawson.