After the elegantly ambient 'Victorialand' 4AD's most valuable asset moved on to ethereal pop with 1988's 'Blue Bell Knoll'. Arguably their second essential album after 'Head Over Heels', this record bursts with euphoric greatness. Liz Frazer's vocals are at their acrobatic best from her opera-style trilling on 'Carolyn's Fingers' to the Karen Carpenter-style intonations on the blissful 'Cico Buff'. 'Athol Brose' is one of those wonderful songs where the melodic twists the listener wishes for is granted in every key change. Proving they hadn't deserted their gothic roots altogether, the title track is a work of escalating menace and the darkly magnificent 'The Itchy Glowbo Blow' must be one of the most extreme examples of a song being much more promising than its awkward title. Robin Guthrie and Simon Raymonde provide the usual immense backdrop but this time it is utterly approachable whilst maintaining a typically unimitable uniqueness. In a perfect world all records would be as good as this.