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Goldfrapp - Seventh Tree

It’s the sense of wanderlust and the blending of familiarity with unfamiliarity which ultimately makes ‘Seventh Tree’ so endearing.

The word ‘re-invention’ often carries negative connotations in music; images of Madonna in a 70s jumpsuit flash before the eyes like a nightmare, a supposed fresh artistic direction thinly masking a cold and calculated aim at increased record sales. Goldfrapp’s new release ‘Seventh Tree’ has attracted similar criticism from some, claiming a sharp turn towards ‘off-brand coffeehouses’ and away from dark, arresting pop. ‘Seventh Tree’ is far from cold and calculating however, rather it’s an organic and mature progression from previous releases, marking a new chapter in an already great career.

2005’s ‘Supernature’ was the band’s debauched, kinky night of passion, an intensely sexual dirty electro-glam riot. ‘Seventh Tree’ is their morning after, walking home in the crisp air, the sun casting its light over an older and wiser face coming to terms with its lost innocence. Much of this sense is a result of Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory’s warped take on folk; Little Bird’s perfect merging of Nick Drake’s guitar, ‘Tangerine Dream’’s swirling walls of sound and early Pink Floyd psychedelia is a prime example of their newfound eccentricities. Despite this embracing of what Alison has described as ‘surreal folk’ however, at its core ‘Seventh Tree’ is a pop record like ‘Supernature’ and ‘Black Cherry’ before it, but whose dark and arresting beauty is veiled under an acoustic rather than electric surface.

The result is tracks such as lead single ‘A & E’, who’s dreamy guitar backing and catchy melody is undercut by allusions to an overdose and images of a ‘backless dress in a pastel ward’. ‘Eat Yourself’ meanwhile begins with what sounds like a lost 78rpm from the 1930s, Alison’s voice soaring Kate Bush-like over haunting strings as she heartbreakingly admits ‘How can I love you when I know you don’t love me?’ The production throughout is masterful, blending the potentially disparate threads of 17th Century harps and 21st Century synths around the multi-tracked vocals which sound distant without ever becoming lost. There are weaker moments on the record; the ambient opener ‘Clowns’ threatens to grind to a halt before its really even begun, however these are easily outshone by songs like the recorder backed ‘Happiness’, the pure pop of ‘Caravan Girl’ and ‘Cologne Cerrone Houdini’. The latter’s eeriness typifies what separates Goldfrapp from many of their new-found electro-acoustic peers such as Zero 7. Where their music rarely escapes the realm of easy-listening amongst monotonous backing and uninventive arranging, Goldfrapp succeed in crafting a more complex, convincing and genuine sound.

It’s the sense of wanderlust and the blending of familiarity with unfamiliarity which ultimately makes ‘Seventh Tree’ so endearing. The fundamental elements of every Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory album are here; dreamy vocals, pop hooks, dark lyrics and bubbling synths, yet they are transfigured, as the pair take the core elements of folk instrumentation and psychedelia and turn them back in upon their own universe, creating an album of startling and compelling pop music.

Tags: Goldfrapp, Reviews, Album Reviews

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