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Released in October of 1988, Blue Bell Knoll found all three Cocteau Twins back together for a proper LP for the first time since Treasure. This was also the first Cocteau Twins record which received distribution in the United States (not counting the 1985 compilation The Pink Opaque).

When it was originally released, one could buy Blue Bell Knoll in one of the following formats: vinyl LP, cassette tape, compact disc or digital audio tape (DAT). Does anyone else remember DAT? While I never personally touched one, I remember DAT (along with the similar competitor, digital compact cassette) being pushed by audio manufacturers in the early to mid-1990s along with minidiscs as part of some sort of "digital recording revolution." At the time, burning a CD was expensive – these other two formats promised people the ability to record their music without the cost. Of course, we all know how good industry promises are.

DAT and DCC seemed idiotic from the onset. What, exactly, is the point of recording something digitally on a reel-to-reel system? The appeal of the compact disc was a perfect recording with instant access on a pocket-sized format. Had it not been for the MP3, I think that the minidisc would have gained a good share of market traction (and anti-piracy backlash). I remember using minidiscs for a brief period at WAIH, before a computer was installed in the air studio. They were as convenient as air studio cartridges without the bulk or winding. Of course, they were pointless once one could record a file on a computer and load it with even more portability and convenience.

Blue Bell Knoll is not an album I am intimately familiar with. It's another quick one – about 35 minutes long. Like Victorialand, it is named after a place (in this case Bluebell Knoll in Utah) but sonically, it is more like a cross between Treasure and the group's next album: Heaven or Las Vegas. Over the years it has received mixed reviews. Personally, I don't hate or dislike anything this group has put out...and I've come to the point where I've confessed to myself that I can't objectively rank albums. So, subjectively, this is another pretty set from the group, but not the first one I'd recommend to a newcomer.

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Seth Warren

May 2017

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