Written by Tío Esqueleto
It’s been three years since Goldfrapp, the British duo of vocalist Alison Goldfrapp, and composer Will Gregory, released their third album, Supernature. It sold over a million copies worldwide and catapulted the duo to superstar status in their native England and Europe, as well as here in the states where its undeniable electro-pop seeped into American pop culture via various commercials, network television bumpers, countless music TV promos, as well as on the dance floor. The natural sister piece to 2003’s electro cabaret Black Cherry, Supernature seemed to be everywhere at once and, before too long, teetered on exhaustion for both fans, and unknowing consumers, alike.
With Seventh Tree, the band’s fourth album, gone is the glam electric of those previous two offerings. Instead, they have returned to the lush, cinematic soundscapes of their first endeavor, 2000’s Felt Mountain, the perfect destination after four good years of disco glitz. Where their debut was mondo Morricone, with a nod to Barry’s Bond, here we are treated to a folky, no less lush, but subtly psychedelic, touch of the cinematic with Goldfrapp herself likening its overall feel to the 1973 British cult film, The Wicker Man, directed by Robin Hardy and scored by Paul Giovanni.
Nowhere is this love letter to The Wicker Man more apparent than in the album’s slower songs. The opening track, “Clowns,” is a gorgeous offering that evokes washed-out images of Scottish countryside, lens flares, and the eerie inhabitants of Summerisle. They’ve spared us any reference to “Corn rigs and Barley rigs” (thank God), and have instead stuck with the more Britt Ekland-inspired, Willow’s songs. Traces of Ekland’s memorable turn as the highly erotic Willow can be found scattered throughout the album on tracks such as “Road to Somewhere” and “Some People,” tracks that while lyrically don’t make much of a connection, musically they seem to be directly inspired by the now-infamous bedroom seduction song, while subconsciously conjuring imagery of a voluptuous Ekland dancing naked against the wall.
The psychedelic really comes into play on the more up tempo numbers, “Little Bird” and “Happiness,” the first of which starts slow, but by song’s end, takes a turn towards one of the deeper cuts on The Yellow Submarine. “Happiness” takes Goldfrapp’s signature swing and forgoes the usual hard-edged, chunky synths for softer synths, various horns, and an array of strings and technique that would impress a young Brian Wilson. The same can be said for most of the album’s composition that, for the first time, finds the band enlisting the help of outside musicians, as well as from U2/Nine Inch Nails/Depeche Mode producer extraordinaire, Flood. Much of the arrangement recalls the previous two albums, only this time they are merely played through a variety of different instruments and musicians. This about-face is a means to an end is most apparent in the aforementioned “Happiness,” as well as in the single “A&E.” You can almost hear the good people at Target putting together their spring campaign to one of these two songs. The hooks are certainly still there.
Seventh Tree is a wonderful step sideways for Goldfrapp. They’ve traded pop-glitz and glam for folk-psychedelia and sun. It is still undeniably Goldfrapp, and with a voice like that, how could it not be? Will Gregory, with the aid of Flood, has done some of his finest work to date. For those of you longing for a taste of the “wonderful electric,” there is always the live show. I, for one, cannot wait to see how this album translates to the stage. With a tour currently underway across the pond, my fingers are crossed that it makes its way to the states, animal heads, Maypoles, ribbons, and all.