Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Goldfrapp's second album, Black Cherry (2003), seemed a jarring departure from their debut, Felt Mountain (2000). When the duo's third effort, Supernature, emerged in 2006, it continued in the same the disco-glam electro stylings, which seemed to render the eerie uniqueness of their premier disc as an anomaly in their output.
Black Cherry and Supernature were accomplished and successful, yet Felt Mountain remained as a creation of singular majesty and originality. On it, they created a magical world of beauty, ranging from creepy darkness to Alpine coolness, all infused with a sense of impending menace. The lyrics, instead of telling stories, or even painting scenes, dropped queasy, half-lit images, hinting at unsettling enigmas. The music didn't sound like much of anything else in pop music, drawing mostly on folk and classical genres, which speaks to both the absorbency, and meaninglessness, of the umbrella terms, "pop," or "rock." Ethnic sounding instruments mixed with lush string orchestras and, in one disturbing track, Alison's voice was fed through something like a gated filter which, when active, sounds as if her larynx is turning to melted rubber. Listening to the album from beginning to end left one with the impression of having journeyed through an enchanted fairyland, managing somehow to have just eluded the wicked witch.
A Trip To Felt Mountain:
One of the most memorable tracks, Paper Bag, with the bizarre refrain: "When the world stops for snow, When you laugh, I'm inside, Your mouth," has the recurring chord progression: i, vii7, iii7. A sequence of minor chords, the second and third of which introduces an unexpected flattened note from outside the scale, is a little trick of harmony epitomizing much of what makes Felt Mountain breathtaking: subverted presumptions turning corners on surprising loveliness.
The new album, Seventh Tree, has almost not a trace of the previous three. It's a relaxed and personal affair. The lyrics are reflective of interior observations, and the instrumentation is folksy, even when its electronic. It's hard to imagine "selling" these tracks in the arenas that Goldfrapp has become accustomed to performing in. These songs seem more suited to small theaters or intimate spaces. Some tracks, such as Caravan Girl, are more straightforward than we've ever heard from this duo. However, it's all very lovely and suggests a welcome retreat to more introverted spaces than they've explored in a while.