Graham Reid | | 3 min read
Let's give British singer Alison Goldfrapp and synth/composer Will Gregory – who perform as Goldfrapp – their due.
If nothing else, they always made their career an interesting and unpredictable ride for us these past 17 years.
They might have started life working the area between ambient, electronic and cinematic sounds with their still impressive debut Felt Mountain, but across seven albums they've explored everything from glam rock, dancefloor electronica, Euro-trash disco, retro-Eighties pop (every writer said, “Van Halen's Jump” about their 2010 single Rocket) and even British folk on their last album Tales of Us three years ago.
Oh, and did we mention influences and ideas drawn from European cabaret and film soundtracks, the inclusion of orchestras and choirs, borrowing the riff from Norman Greenbaum's classic Spirit in the Sky for their T.Rex-like 2005 single Ohh La La and . . .
The first single Anymore from their new album Silver Eye released today (March 31) takes them right back to stripped down and gritty dancefloor electro-pop.
You'd be forgiven for thinking there's a Goldfrapp for every taste.
Which has made their award-accumulating career well worth following.
They've been nominated for Grammys and the Mercury Prize, a couple of Brits and International Dance Music awards, and there was a fascinating album We Are Glitter which was remixes of their songs by Flaming Lips, Carl Craig, Francois K and others.
In the landscape of contemporary music their sales mostly remain on the margins of massiveness, but – in terms of respect from peers and delivering on their early promise to do exactly what they want -- they are right there in the centre of the frame.
Their albums also come with classy photos and graphics, and their eye-candy videos slew between arty and odd (check the clip for Number 1 from a decade ago).
Right from the start they were what marketing people call, “the complete package”.
In part that's because of Alison Goldfrapp's background which includes not just pop and rock music but also performing in a dance troupe, studying fine art, appearing in a student film and doing performance pieces.
Like David Bowie who similarly assimilated diverse influences, she has also abruptly changed her appearance – from Marlene Dietrich to cabaret rock chick via circus clown – and has a hand in designing their album covers and artwork. Their stage shows have included strangely dressed dancers.
The clip for the new single Anymore – pale women in a bleached out desertscape and barren canyons with references to sexual anger, love and conflicted emotions – confirms her statement that “music is a visual experience”.
Equal credit too must go to Will Gregory who studied classical music at university and plays saxophone, and in the decade before he hooked up with Goldfrapp performed with Peter Gabriel, Portishead, the Cure, Tears for Fears and the London Sinfonietta at a performance of the contemporary opera Nixon in China. He also did the soundtrack to the Philip Davis film I.D. about a cop going undercover to join a bunch of British football hooligans.
Six years ago he premiered his own opera Piccard in Space and he has written classical music outside of Goldfrapp hours.
Throw all those diverse influences together – you heard his soundtrack ideas as far back as Oompah Radar on that debut album – and you can see why Goldfrapp and Gregory were never going to stick with just one style.
It just wasn't in their mixed-up, shook-up DNA.
Because of that strange journey they've taken us on it's impossible to point to just one Goldfrapp album and say, “They are like this” because on the next one they are like “that”.
Or sometimes like “This and that”.
But that debut Felt Mountain and its follow-up Black Cherry (where the glam-cum-dance was pushed to the fore) gives some hint of their breadth.
At the quieter end of their spectrum is their lovely 2008 Seventh Tree which, of course, they followed with the upbeat Head First complete with Van Halen and disco references.
With Goldfrapp it's always been a case of, “You pays yer money and you takes yer chances”.
Chances are you'll get your money's worth though.