Electro-pop

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Emily Ritchie

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.

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