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.
Review Summary: They've gone acoustic, and made their best album yet. It seems bizarre considering that Seventh Tree is only their fourth album, but Goldfrapp's career has already circled upon itself twice. Where the lush, Portishead-without-beats Felt Mountain saw the band on the cusp of stardom at a time when British music didn't really know what the hell it was doing, the defiant electroclash of Black Cherry seemed like little less than a blatant attempt to sabotage their careers, annoy their fans, and remain a decidedly cult act.
After spending years on the dancefloor with Black Cherry and Supernature, Goldfrapp take a breather with Seventh Tree. Allison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory slow down the beats and break out the acoustic guitars on a set of songs that suggest chilling out in a field during a hazy, watercolor summer; this is music for after the party, not after-parties. "Clowns" opens the album with fingerpicked acoustic guitar, bird songs, and Allison's nearly wordless vocalizing, making a statement that's bold because it's so gentle -- the effect is like stepping out into a sunny morning after spending all night in a club.
When DFA’s James Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy disco-ized Slide In from Goldfrapp’s already beat-centric Supernature record, the production duo didn’t have to do much more than add cowbell and up the tempo. Her fourth album, however, doesn’t lend itself as easily to such remixing ventures, and will likely be heard more in coffee houses than nightclubs. It’s a lush journey that leaves behind Black Cherry’s glam rock and electronic dabblings for a twilight world of ethereal pop.
The party’s over for Alison Goldfrapp. On 2005’s breakthrough Supernature, sideman Will Gregory surrounded her breathy vocals with enough pulsing beats and glammy keyboard riffs to fill Studio 54. Yet on the duo’s dialed-down fourth CD, Seventh Tree her Kate Bush-esque warble is left exposed, accompanied only by gossamer-light electronics (”Road to Somewhere”) or tasteful strings (”Clowns”).
Seventh Tree finds Goldfrapp taking it back, after a few albums of hot blooded downtempo electro cabaret, not just to the more dreamy, ambient textures of their debut, Felt Mountain, but into the pastoral, psychedelic English folk tradition. I'm not sure if its just exoticism or the lingering effects of the first Wicker Man, but this type of material always seems more striking to me than its American counterpart. Speaking of striking, the album art here justifies the purchase of a physical copy.