Alison Goldfrapp is an intriguing iteration on the Diva. Her flamboyance is quiet, studied, her gestures thoughtful rather than brashly encompassing. Her style is less brassy than it is Surreal, flirtatious, even a bit louche. There’s something so marvelously fantastical and almost Pagan (think Wicker Man) about the unsettling worlds she paints with her songs. (They’re like musical corollaries to Angela Carter’s phantasmagoric and sometimes nightmarish short stories in tone and imagistic flair —think endless nights at the circus, or dusk-to-dawn cabarets presided over by Jenny Lind and Emmy Hennings .)
Her eponymous duo’s 2003 album Black Cherry has remained one of my favorites, a lush, ornate —yet oddly comforting— song cycle that hangs together more gracefully than most dancefloor-friendly albums deign to even attempt. That’s why the 2005 follow-up, Supernature, was a bit of a letdown. Far less consistent, it hit the same sensual notes as Black Cherry but pallidly, like a Xerox of a Xerox.
I have great hopes for her new album, Seventh Tree [Mute] as a bucolic and ever-so-slightly sinister return to form —the press release calls it a “sensual counterpoint …gilded in butterfly colors of an English Surrealism shared with Lear and Lennon.” I do hope that doesn’t mean that Goldfrapp’s marvelous idiosyncrasies have been wiped out in favor of the glitter-ball chanteuse who stomped all over Supernature. We shall see. (It’s out tomorrow, I believe.)
I’ve been a fan of Ms. Goldfrapp’s evocative voice for quite some time now. She’s graced some of the quirkiest, most unusual singles of the late 90s, working with Tricky, Orbital, Add N To X, among others. I leave you with some of my favorite Goldfrapp moments from her pre-solo career years.
Add N to X, “Revenge of the Black Regent” (from Avant Hard, 1999)
Tricky (with Alison Goldfrapp), “Pumpkin” (from Maxinquaye, 1995)
Orbital (with Alison Goldfrapp), “Sad But New” (from the Insides EP, 1996)