"I was always a fan of the Cocteau Twins, before I joined. I hear what people say about them now, mystical and all that stuff. I never thought that then, I just thought, brilliant music, really exciting. I never thought in a million years that I'd be in the Cocteaux." — Simon Raymonde
Although Robin and Liz hadn't specifically set out to find a new bass player, they certainly needed one, and happened upon Simon Raymonde in late 1983. Simon had been a member of the band Drowning Craze prior to his joining Cocteau Twins. As Simon recalls: "The Drowning Craze were a potentially great group, but there were too many individuals. Quite a sulky group. They played noisily and aggressive, fiddly guitar lines, deep bass lines." [Jamming Magazine, December, 1985]
"I was always a fan of the Cocteau Twins, before I joined. I hear what people say about them now, mystical and all that stuff. I never thought that then, I just thought, brilliant music, really exciting. I never thought in a million years that I'd be in the Cocteaux." [Jamming Magazine, December, 1985]
"[I] had known Robin and Liz for a while through Ivo, and travelled around with all 4AD people to see shows all over Britain. Then while working in an 8-track studio in Camden, invited Robin and Liz over to make use of the studio while the boss was off on holiday. One thing very naturally led to another and Robin and I wrote a song together, which was released as "Millimillenary" on The Pink Opaque. After, I went back to writing music at home, until I got a call from Robin and Liz asking if I fancied going to Scotland for a week to write some songs. The rest, as they say, is history..."
Thus The Spangle Maker marked a period of transition for the band, with Simon's addition affecting the songwriting, style, and overall sound of the music, albeit in a rather subtly organic way. "Millimillenary" was initially released as part of a New Music Express compilation tape, and shortly thereafter "Pearly-Dewdrops' Drops" was released as a 7-inch single with "Pepper-Tree" as the b-side (AD 405). The Spangle Maker was released later (BAD 405), and included a 12-inch version of "Pearly-Dewdrops' Drops," "Pepper-Tree," and a new track, "The Spangle Maker."
The Spangle Maker shows a progression more akin to Sunburst and Snowblind than to Head Over Heels. The overall feeling is not unlike looking through some old photo album of blurred, sepia-coloured images - much like the Gertrude Käsebier photo featured on the sleeve.
The songs themselves—like the song titles—give a clearly subjective image, one which both allows the listener the freedom to impress upon it his or her own thoughts and feelings and at the same time creates are certain timelessness to the overall sound. Who can't imagine how a 'pearly-dewdrops' drop' might appear? Or picture a burst of light (a 'spangle' or star) at the thought of a 'spangle maker'?
The addition of Simon also meant additional studio experience and technique. Each of the three tracks contains significantly more space within them - a good example of which is the opening to "Pearly-Dewdrops' Drops"—a cascading snare-through-reverb cadence punctuated with chimes and a full-bodied bass rhythm. Robin returns to more textured guitars for the most part, employing a more e-bow (electronic bow) effect for "The Spangle Maker," and smooth distortion on "Pearly-Dewdrops' Drops." "Pepper-Tree" is mostly driven by a piano and drums with plucked or strummed guitar chords.
Liz's voice, in keeping with Sunburst and Snowblind is loud and expressive, and her lyrics tease the listener with vague clarity and obscure symbols, often only audibly giving away nothing more than the song titles in the course of her singing. Throughout her career, Liz has time and again been questioned about her inspiration for her lyrics, and often has had little to say. In an interview in August of 1984, she had this to say:
"When the band started, I began reading books a lot more, and I get most of my inspiration for lyrics through them. I can't get inspiration from seeing things, I can only get excited by images—things that are conjured up.
I think I'm also more interested in the way words sound and what you can do if you say words in different ways than in what the words themselves actually mean. I can't really say which authors or books have influenced me—I can never remember names—but it's really just certain groups of words and the way they sound." [Electronics & Music Maker, 1984].
"Pearly-Dewdrops' Drops," the single, was the band's most commercially successful release to-date, having scaled the UK's popular music charts to reach number 29. The EP itself was number one on the UK's Independent chart—a position by that time familiar to them. The band were offered to appear on the popular UK music television show "Top of the Pops," but declined the opportunity—an event Liz recalls with some irritation: "Everyone was just cacking their pants at the thought of success. I don't know, I can't understand it..." [Volume 5 Magazine, 1992]. The band did, however, perform "Pearly-Dewdrops' Drops" for another UK show, "Whistle Test."
The first official Cocteau Twins promotional video ("Song to the Siren" notwithstanding) was produced for "Pearly-Dewdrops' Drops" and was directed by 23 Envelope's Nigel Grierson. It features the band walking around and inside a large church with some interesting (for the time) cinematic effects. The images tend to be blurred at times, with some slow-motion fades and montages. The band were not very happy with the video in the end, feeling that it didn't adequately represent the music and was much more promotional in nature than they would have preferred.
As for live performances, all three tracks were consistently played during live shows from 1983 through 1986. They were subsequently re-released—along with "Millimillenary"—on the 1985 compilation The Pink Opaque.