Concept band created by Ivo Watts Russell to create music that defies the concept of genre. The set has varied greatly, but seems to always include someone or other from Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, XMal Deutchland, and Colour Box.

As stated above, their music is created with uniqueness in mind. This makes their music a bit harder to accept for listeners breast-fed on manufactured pop music, but it still succeeds to evoke strong feelings, especially Song to the Siren and Another Day from It'll End in Tears.


This Mortal Coil are the creators of some of the most beautiful music of the modern age. Ivo Watts-Russell is the founder of 4AD records, and felt that he was a frustrated musician. Once he had the means, he signed bands that caught his attention in various ways -- and he has excellent taste. After he started assembling this collection of interesting, talented, and diverse musicians, he created This Mortal Coil as a supergroup for the label. With Ivo conducting, and John Fryer engineering, these three albums are all amazing soundscapes. Subjectively, this "band" ranks as one of my favorite bands ever; I can only begin to describe how much depth they added to my life so far.

The name comes from the same famous Shakespearean soliloquy as the phrase To be, or not to be: both spoken by Hamlet.

Common threads through all three albums include the production and engineering team mentioned above, and certain session players (Martin McCarrick for all three albums, Diedre and Louise Rutkowski on the last two). Also, many of these songs are actually covers of early '70s synth-folk songs by the likes of Tim Buckley and Chris Bell. Ivo certainly made them his own, and it's a shock to hear the original versions after becoming accustomed to the TMC versions. Finally, all of these works are definitely poignant, to the point of being too dark for some people.

The 1984 album It'll End In Tears is the most varied and least cohesive of the three. At the same time, its very jaggedness strikes a nerve that the later, smoother works don't quite reach. It features the following artists (in order of appearance): Gordon Sharp (Cindytalk), Simon Raymonde (Cocteau Twins), Martin McCarrick, Elizabeth Fraser (Cocteau Twins), Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins), Howard Devoto, Steven Young (Colourbox), Gini Ball, Mark Cox (The Wolfgang Press), Martyn Young (Colourbox), Lisa Gerrard (Dead Can Dance), Brendan Perry (Dead Can Dance), Robbie Grey (Modern English), and Manuela Rickers (X-Mal Deutschland).

Their 1986 release filigree & shadow is, in my opinion, their masterwork. A 74-minute musical journey that is as magical, mystical, and emotional as any other experience I've ever had. More details are available at that node, but the artists participating in this collection include: Dominic Appleton, Simon Raymonde, David Curtis, John Turner, Alison Limerick, Jean, Peter Ulrich, Keith Mitchell, Nigel K. Hine, Anne Turner, Les McKuen, Richenel, Chris Pye, Caroline Seaman, Alan Curtis, Mark Cox, Andrew Gray, Steven Young, and Tony Waera (on digeridoo, no less!).

Blood was their third and final album, released in 1991. It is even darker than filigree & shadow, and almost as powerful. Standout tracks include most of the first even-numbered tracks, cresting at "I Come and Stand at Every Door". Notable additions on this album are more recent 4AD alumni Kim Deal (Pixies, Breeders, Amps) and Tanya Donelly (Throwing Muses, Breeders, Belly), new talent Caroline Crawley (of Shelleyan Orphan, with an amazingly husky yet child-like voice). Overall, a fabulous release -- Still one of my top 10, even if filigree & shadow manages to outshine it.

4AD has a another project, The Hope Blister, that was intended to be "kind of a sequel to This Mortal Coil". Their only album to date is ...Smile's Ok; I don't find it as powerful as the TMC work, but it's still quite formidable on its own. Some of the same artists appear: Louise Rutkowski does most of the vocals, John Fryer does the mixing, and Ivo Watts-Russell does the producing. The songs are mostly covers again, if of a more recent vintage.

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