Release Date: Mar 31, 2017
Record label: Mute US
The Upshot: Silver Eye is pure gold. BY APRIL S. ENGRAM Robotic yet moving. Ethereal yet roaring. Angelic yet possessed. All of these words collectively describe the sonic world created on Silver Eye, Goldfrapp's seventh album. Formed in 1999, the talented UK duo--Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory ….
Goldfrapp are one of the more fabulous additions to the pop of the past two decades. Appearing at the turn of the century with a catalogue of hidden work behind them, Will Gregory and Alison Goldfrapp instantly exuded class and confidence. The classic double act of performing diva and reclusive studio boffin, their work grabbed attention and was often viewed in lofty regard.
With last album 'Tales Of Us,' Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory fashioned a collection of darkened folk tales, not unlike 2008’s 'Seventh Tree'. Don't expect a re-tread here. If there's one thing that's consistent with Goldfrapp, it's their inconsistency in style. Each of their records has walked a different path, and 'Silver Eye' is no different.
Given Goldfrapp's fondness for following one of their albums with its musical and emotional opposite, Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory were due for a fun album to balance 2013's gorgeously somber Tales of Us. What they deliver with Silver Eye, however, isn't quite so predictable; instead of swinging between extremes, they stake out a more intriguing middle ground. It's true that the album begins with a pair of cybersexy movers that are quintessentially Goldfrapp: "Anymore"'s hydraulic grooves and the Radiophonic Workshop disco of "Systemagic" are untouched by EDM or any other trends that surfaced since the last time the duo made its way to the dancefloor.
Ever since their exquisite 2000 debut album Felt Mountain, London duo Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory have shifted restlessly between musical styles, rarely occupying the same territory for more than one record. While Felt Mountain was an icily elegant, lush combination of cabaret, Portishead-like film noir and electronica, second album Black Cherry was dominated by pulsing, Germanic synthesisers, and third and fourth releases Supernature and Seventh Tree explored dance-pop and pastoral folk respectively. The only common ingredients throughout Goldfrapp's near-20-year career to date have been Alison's soaring, operatic vocals and her enigmatic, occasionally unsettling lyrics.
It's hard to figure out the duo of Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory, known simply as Goldfrapp. It's also hard not to like them. Their ever-evolving career path has seen them not just drifting away from the dreamy electronic, cinematic ballads of their 2000 debut Felt Mountain, but taking some hard left turns over the course of five successive albums.
It takes Alison Goldfrapp more than a full verse into Silver Eye 's leadoff track "Anymore" before she utters a single word with more than one syllable: "You're what I want. You're what I need. Give me your love. Make me a freak." Reductive? Considering her and collaborator Will Gregory--whose past lyrics would gussy up their earthy emotions and desires in hazy surrealism like, "Wolf lady sucks my brain" and, "Now take me dancing at the disco where you buy your Winnebago"--you might be tempted to think so.
Four years have passed since the last Goldfrapp album, yet somehow it seems even longer. A new Goldfrapp release is always a highly anticipated, and unpredictable, musical event. The duo generally stays within the lines of melodic electropop with Alison Goldfrapp's coolly detached and sexy vocals front and center, but they are certainly not afraid to change it up from album to album.
It wasn't broke so they didn't fix it. Though they might take occasional excursions into spacier, soundtrackier, folkier environments - and do very well at it, too - what we really want from Goldfrapp is large helpings of saucy synth pop, and here they are with loads of it. Yes, there's rather more floaty space-balladry than glam-stomp disco, but nonetheless they're definitely in the same mode as their early-00s glory days, when they defined the zeitgeist to the point that everyone from Madonna to Kylie was pinching their style.
British synthsters Goldfrapp are back with their seventh studio album Silver Eye, a collection of tracks that feel like a return to the duo's roots of thudding electro-pop with a hint of darkness, reminiscent of their best-known album, Black Cherry. Goldfrapp have always shuffled through different styles within the electro-pop domain, not sticking to one approach for more than an album; from the folksy Seventh Tree to the electro-ballads of 2013's Tales of Us to hunk-of-'80s flashback Head First. In any case, those keen to see Goldfrapp ditch the guitars and nostalgia will be pleased here.
Goldfrapp's entire career has been a series of comprehensive reinventions, so it's something of a surprise that so much of their seventh album finds them returning to the stomping glam rock/synth fusions of 2003's Black Cherry. The lack of progression isn't a problem: opener Anymore (about transgender children), the standout Everything Is Never Enough and the brooding, PJ-Harvey-goes-electro Ocean are a match for anything Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory have released before. The Garbage-like Systemagic even overcomes being hamstrung by a title seemingly designed to conjure unwanted flashbacks to Five Star, Romford's answer to the Jackson 5.
G oldfrapp's seventh album seems fascinated by the subject of transformation. A song inspired by a documentary about transgender children - "become the one you know you are," urges its chorus - rubs shoulders with a song in which a man turns into a tiger. It's not entirely clear whether this second change is literal or metaphorical, although Alison Goldfrapp sounds keen on the idea, either way.
By this point, we should all be accustomed to Goldfrapp’s sonic aesthetic swinging wildly from one album to the next, between folk-ambient textures and disco-house experimentation. The U.K. duo’s seventh effort, Silver Eye, is no exception, an attempt to put a fresh spin on the synth-based sounds of 2003’s Black Cherry and 2005’s Supernature.
Seventeen years after their debut, and eight albums into their career, a definite pattern has emerged in the Goldfrapp oeuvre. A kind of yin versus yang, or - to steal a phrase loved by Apple tech heads - a 'tick' 'tock'. On the one hand there are contemplative soundscapes. 'Felt Mountain' (2000) provided the primary source, but 2014's 'Tales Of Us' and 2008's 'Seventh Tree' also drank from the same cup.
Somewhere between the throbbing second track on Goldfrapp’s new album Silver Eye (“Systemagic”) and the slinky third (“Tigerman”), you’ll wonder why Goldfrapp haven’t recorded a theme for a James Bond film yet. They were reportedly up for the honor in 2006, only to be rejected because they were "not macho enough" for producers said to be seeking a steelier, masculine sound, apparently found in Soundgarden's Chris Cornell. That their rationale only looks more laughable a decade later probably doesn't lessen the sting of being passed over on the basis of being a woman-fronted act.