Long before seemingly every second commercial (think ads for Diet Coke, Target, and so on) used the music of Goldfrapp to peddle their wares, the duo of Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory released a little album called Felt Mountain (2000). Maybe you’ve heard of it. Consisting of some of the most unsettling chill-out music to make its way this side of the Atlantic, Felt Mountain marked a perfect union between edgy trip-hop and grand cinema, where electronic flourishes punctuated sweeping scores and where barren winter landscapes played host to a cavalcade of lovely heads, pilots, and horse tears. Perhaps most distinctive of all were Alison Goldfrapp’s icy vocals, which ranged from hushed lulls to swooping operatics, often with vocoder in tow.
Soon after Felt Mountain, however, the duo took what was to be a lengthy detour in sound, instead focusing on well-engineered electronica that was tailor-made for club remixes. And it was on the strength of songs like 2003’s “Strict Machine” and 2005’s “Ooh La La” that helped land Goldfrapp the multitude of advertisement deals, a serious fan following, and even touring slots with Coldplay and Duran Duran. But for those longing for the snow-capped ranges of Felt Mountain, it began to feel like Goldfrapp and Gregory might never return to their chill-out roots.
Eight years since the release of Felt Mountain, we find Alison Goldfrapp (looking curiously like a long-lost Olsen twin on the album cover) and Will Gregory coming full circle with their brilliant new album, Seventh Tree. Lush, sprawling, and quirky as hell, Seventh Tree finds Goldfrapp exploring entirely new territory via flower-power psychedelia and ’60s American folk music. The experience is at once bleak and inviting, making for a thrillingly disconcerting affair.
What’s different this time around is an unapologetic joy found throughout the album. Listen to “Little Bird” as it crescendos into a full-on celebration complete with live drums and Alison Goldfrapp blissfully hurtling notes into another stratosphere. Equally rapturous is “Caravan Girl,” the album’s pop juggernaut, which chugs along like a locomotive fueled by LSD, ascending into a euphoric, rainbow-colored explosion of sound where Alison utilizes her operatic prowess to its peak potential.
But it is in the shade of Seventh Tree where things get truly interesting. “Eat Yourself” is a watercolor portrait of age-old longing. Opener “Clowns” is an acoustic-guitar led abstract folk-piece that could very well leave you weeping where you stand. And on “Happiness,” don’t be deceived by lyrics about “harmony and peace of mind” suspiciously floating around, as you’re soon privy to Alison Goldfrapp’s idea of deadpan when she sings “give us all your money, we’ll make it better,” an acerbic reference to income-sucking new-age self-help centers.
Seventh Tree ultimately may have club-happy Supernature devotees shaking their heads, but for those of us who cherish all things weird and wonderful in the land of Goldfrapp, it is a welcome (and much-needed) return to form.
"A&E" video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VPyso87fZU