The Cocteau Twins make music at a measured pace. Songs come together slowly, with each delicate layer of melody, rhythm, lilting vocal and well-timed wail. It's not rock 'n' roll as Elvis imagined it, but the Twins find true emotional urgency within a rich, ethereal package.
At the Mayan Theater on Monday, the Cocteau Twins built up enough musical momentum to bring them dangerously close to rock, borrowing energy from the Twins' new "Milk and Kisses" album. Yet the Scottish act was equally, if not more, effective during the quietest moments.
The band (including its key musical architects, guitarist Robin Guthrie and bassist Simon Raymonde) played from the shadows, leaving the spotlight to singer Elizabeth Fraser, who brought an occasional smoky tone to her vocals. A few songs early in the 90-minute set fell strangely flat by incorporating a single, danceable beat. Fraser and the band were at their best when drifting through a simple, evocative melody.
Opening act Spain, a Los Angeles-based quartet led by singer-bassist Josh Haden, played a restrained, ethereal mix of jazz, pop and country. Blending slow, fuzzy guitar chords over a low blues rumbling, Spain offered less musical variety than the headliner, but still cut deep with quiet, mournful passages.
The band sometimes lost focus in its delicate tangle of cool jazz and Velvet Underground, though Haden's earnest prayers on life and love echoed through the Mayan's ornate caverns long after the set was over.