For those of us who have followed Alison Goldfrapp and Wil Gregory on their journey as “Goldfrapp” from the very beginning , the one thing we know is that we can always expect the unexpected. For those who have only paid attention to the few “hit singles” the sonic career of Goldfrapp is often problematic. I’ve had friends complain that they either miss the Electronic / Ambient sounds of “Felt Mountain” or they want the Cerrone / Moroder hedonistic lush disco of “Supernature” — or a mix of the two as was the case with their second full length album, “Black Cherry”. Others, still, fell into love with the sensuous electro-folk / art vibe of “Seventh Tree” — I’ve heard only a very few non-FrappHeads lay a claim of love for the somewhat strange lapse into the retro-early 80’s synth pop of “Head First”
But the endlessly fascinating joy of Goldfrapp is the unpredictable sounds that they come up with next. I was in Montreal when I first heard “Felt Mountain” and I will never forget the allure of it as my brain was literally pulled into the album from the opening track, “Lovely Head” to the very close. I actually curled up into one of those cushy chairs that one used to find in the record stores of the 1990’s and listened to the whole album while sipping my tea.
And, then being jolted into the perverse world of “Black Cherry” — at once beautiful and then erotically disco saturated in a way that Trent Reznor could have only tried to imagine. One would be hard pressed to find a better example of groin thud inducing Post-Industrial drive of “Train”
And, then they gave us “Supernature” which is probably the closest they have ever come to capturing the ears of the mainstream. This album was pure and unabashed 1970’s down and dirty synth disco inspired. Goldfrapp took inspiration from the sounds of Cerrone and Moroder and made it their own. Stylized and fun, this album soared as did their tour. And, their live shows are always amazing.
But, then we were really thrown off what felt like a steady course to the throne of Dance Club Musicians to the netherworld of “Seventh Tree” which is still, in my opinion, Goldfrapp’s finest moment. “Seventh Tree” was unique unto itself and fit easily into any life situation. Lazy afternoon alone, romantic evening with a lover, spring-cleaning the house or just chilling with a smoke in the living room. “Seventh Tree” was stunningly beautiful and about as organic as Electronica can ever hope to be. But, this was when I noticed many of my pals uncomfortable with the fact that they could not categorize Goldfrapp. Some adored “Seventh Tree” and others were bummed to not continue that retro disco-drenched path that was now starting to be led by the likes of Lady GaGa.
And, then, in 2010 – “Head First” landed on my iPod. Not that I could complain. I liked it. It was very Olivia Newton-John-ish work out music with a tad of experimental electronica. However, as catchy as some of the tunes were — the album felt uninspired compared to the previous work. And the normally fantastically odd video art to promote the album was just not up to par. About a year or so after the release of this album Alison Goldfrapp admitted she was not really satisfied with the result of the album and was wishing they had given the songs to other artists to record.
Goldfrapp is not so much a band or “duo” as two distinctive musical and visual artists creating sonic art. This is not your Mom’s pop band. And, I love the honesty and the experimentation with sound. You either follow along or just stop.
On September 7, 2013 “Tale of Us” officially arrived.
The above photograph is a collage edit by Mark Wallis.
The credit for the above photograph should be Lisa Gunning/ Mark Wallis/ Annemarieke van Drimmelen
I had already heard three leaked tracks. I knew we would be receiving a sort of rebirth – a sort of full circle return to the original “Felt Mountain” Electric Ambience. However, once I had an official copy of the full length work I discovered the Goldfrapp threw another curve into the mix. This is not a rebirthing or even a full circle — this is something new. Taken as a whole, “Tale of Us” could almost serve as the soundtrack to the art sculptures of David Lynch or to scenes from some of his film work. While these songs are most certainly Electronica in style — they go deeper. There is a fusing of Folk and Movie Score elements twisting into the sound.
“Tale of Us” is a lush Folktronica Cinematic Soundscape. It starts with the first track and sends you on a sonic journey to the final notes of the last. I love it.
The packaging, art design and photography by Annemarieke van Drimmelen all combine to make this more than “product” — you are holding art. The care and devotion paid to the way everything about “Tale of Us” has been done should be appreciated. It reminds me a bit of the work that accompanied “Seventh Tree” only this time it is a bit darker and deeper. This time we have moved into a sort of lush and sensual Gothica Sonic Noir.
But, it is unlikely that this album will satisfy the majority of listeners. There is an interesting problem for Goldfrapp’s “Tale of Us” — what makes it interesting is that this would not have been a problem back in the days of vinyl when Art-Alt Rock work was appreciated in full. Back in the day when you actually put on a Patti Smith Group or Kate Bush album with headphones and listened from start to finish.
We now live in a world where everything seems to want to boil down to the minute. In other words, everyone seems to need a hit single. There are singles here, but oddly the first official single from this album is not so impressive when heard alone. However, when one takes in “Tale of Us” from beginning to end – the power and the beauty of the album capture you. However, this album is not truly “ambient” – it is more moody. The compositions demand to be heard. And when taken in together they form a whole that make it all worth while.
But do consumers have the patience for such an artistic work? I hope so. This is a sonic treasure. And, as always, Goldfrapp has taken an unexpected turn into new musical waters. I am more than thrilled to float along.
The two videos I’ve seen so far are sensual. However, on the down side, the video for “Drew” feels a bit dated. It reminds me of a Calvin Klein fragrance advert. But, it is still lovely. Too bad it was not a striking as Annemarieke van Drimmelen’s photography of Alison Goldfrapp. As per usual, Will Gregory seems happy to stay hidden away in the background somewhere. The second video for “Anabel” is far stronger. This video is even a bit provocative and cinematic. A young boy seems to be mourning the loss of his mother and ends up dancing in the woods in an old dress that must have belonged to her. This far more fits the Gothic / Neo-Noir mood of the compositions.
So, if you love Goldfrapp, you will love the new album. If you only care for some of their work — you will most likely only like this latest work if you loved the first two albums. If you loved “Supernature” and “Seventh Tree” only — you might not want to go on this ride. But, if you ask me, you’ll be missing out. Sadly, in the world of music, it is getting harder and harder for true artist to get their voices heard. Goldfrapp are two artists who have a platform and they are delivering original and masterfully mature Prog-Rock work.
Matty Stanfield | September. 2013