On paper, it’s a no brainer for fans of the kind of brooding ethereality of which 4AD Records were most associated with throughout the 80’s. In 1987, former members of Dead Can Dance, Scott Rodger and James Pinker briefly aligned with This Mortal Coil chanteuse, Caroline Seaman (aka Caroline De Batselier), as Heavenly Bodies to produce a single album that fits snugly somewhere between, say, Cranes and X Mal Deutschland.
Though released on Third Mind Records in Europe and C’est La Mort in the States, ‘Celestial’ is a 4AD album in all but name – or at least it’s trying to be. The ghost of early Dead Can Dance understandably lingers in the tribal percussion and heavily reverbed guitar work and Seaman’s voice is most definitely from the school of Lisa Gerrard, albeit via Alison Shaw. Tony Waerea’s sax has a hint of Dif Juz about it and those titles, ‘The Icon,’ ‘Sendero Luminoso,’ ‘An Obsession’ are suitably romantic, Continental, mystical, Xymoxian. The only track that really breaks character is the lovely, Eno-esque ‘Cavatina,’ a beautiful, tinkering piano improvisation, like sunlight through a prism.
I read somewhere that 4AD mainman, Ivo Watts-Russell, turned the record down, which may not be too hard to believe – perhaps its sound was a little too ingratiating? That said, it’s a sound I love.
Though the sleeve proudly states that the whole record was recorded entirely on 8 track, you can sense that there was a much bigger, widescreen ‘Celestial’ fighting to get out. It’s a pity that Heavenly Bodies didn’t leave us with much more than this passing comet.