Silver Eye Goldfrapp Mute British electro-pop duo Goldfrapp has explored myriad sonic aesthetics since its 2000 debut album Felt Mountain. The pair has fluctuated between disco-house ambience and glam rock, downtempo, dance and cinematic synth pop, even venturing into woodland folk. Vocalist/keyboardist Alison Goldfrapp and synthesiser maestro Will Gregory have never quite done the same thing twice. But on this seventh album, Silver Eye, Goldfrapp attempts to do everything simultaneously.
The album, which follows a four-year dry spell for the band, combines a plethora of soundscapes, yet largely in a disappointing way. Where some fans may feel the release harks back to the celebratory yet reflective spirit of its 2010 release Head First, for the most part the album falls flat. It fails to fully capture that unique Goldfrappessence that once bubbled brightly. Most tracks feel stunted and withdrawn, like they’re trying to capture a nostalgia that simply doesn’t exist. Despite Goldfrapp’s breathy vocals, the cold, metallic and repetitive electronics aren’t given much warmth to soften their sharp edges.
Although the vehicle of sonic expression has changed shape, Goldfrapp’s thematic concerns remain the same 17 years on. The power of nature and the elements is given a renewed focus on this release. This is demonstrated in the album’s artwork, which depicts Goldfrapp holding a tree branch, contrasting the brown limbs with her fiery red hair and the sharp angles of the imposing mountain behind her. Metamorphosis and transformation are central concerns of Silver Eye, themes seemingly at odds with the stifled sonic atmosphere and monotonal vibes emanating from the songs. Rather than taking the listener on an undulating journey, most songs remain constant amid a subdued energy that never intensifies. For Silver Eye, the London duo sought help from various collaborators as the album was taking shape. They spent 10 days in Dallas with John Congleton, the Grammy-winning producer of St Vincent, and they also teamed up with British electronic composer Bobby Krlic, who performs as the Haxan Cloak.
Standout tracks include the catchy first single Anymore, which pulses hypnotically, and Become the One, which was inspired by the documentary My Transgender Summer Camp and fizzes with expansive synths and harrowing distorted vocals. Zodiac Black is an ethereal slow build, the chorus of Everything is Never Enough is a sweetly subdued anthem, and the creepy Tigerman would be a perfect fit for the soundtrack of popular sci-fi drama Stranger Things. Ocean is littered with static, and Faux Suede Drifter is defined by its indecipherable lyrics. It will be interesting to see how this album translates to the stage, something Australian audiences will discover when Goldfrapp comes to Sydney’s Carriageworks in June for the annual Vivid Festival.