Goldfrapp / Tales Of Us / Review
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It took Goldfrapp just a little more than a decade to experiment with any opposite musical genres. Secluded in their studio in the country, Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory have been fearlessly fusing glam rock, electronic, acoustic and even 80′s disco like two alchemists. The result has always been different but undoubtedly exploding, sensually overwhelming, and emotionally contagious. Even when reinventing disco with 2010′s Head First, Goldfrapp managed to achieve depth and musical integrity.
This time around with Tales Of Us we see them walking in the footsteps of debut album Felt Mountain and Seventh Tree in a less surrealistic and cryptic way. There is a filmic atmosphere in Tales Of Us, meaning that each track literally transport you into a scene of an old film, through musical arrangements that remind of French and Italians songwriters of the 60′s. This is the perfect album, as Alison stated, to have accompanying videos that actually show us the essence of the songs. Directed by her partner Lisa Gunning, these videos will be released as a film by the end of the year. They are shot in black and white just like the double exposure photos you can take through GoldfrAPP’s app and share with Alison herself. For someone who has always described her writing process as a visual experience, Tales Of Us is a project that quintessentially portrays their artistic expression, makes us think, and proves through its acoustic notes that a warm sensuality is not exclusively obtained with electronic and beat driven music.
Each track is named after a specific character inspired by books and films but ‘Drew’, ‘Annabel’, an even the ‘Stranger’ are not merely songs and inventive inspirations but real characters in search of an author. Through Alison’s precious voice they take a life of their own. She is a narrator, who closely shares their feelings without judging them and ultimately the listeners are witnesses and voyeurs as each tale unfolds. Let’s meet them…
Jo – A haunting piano opens the album with a very calm vocal performance by Alison that at the same time creates a sense of urgency in the lyrics. The moon makes the first of its many appearances, it is watching the scene, people, everything. Details of nature are present and they carefully and silently witness Jo’s actions, “you better run for your life”, as strings play a singing wind.
Annabel – There in an old fashioned sense of escapism in this tale. It is inspired by Kathleen Winter’s 2010 novel of the same name which follows a hermaphrodite child who is forced into taking on a male identity in 1960s Canada. Alison’s fascination with dual creatures and personalities is now embodied in this androgynous boy exploring his femininity. A difficult and delicate theme exquisitely portrayed in the video and a statement on society that always wants us to choose. “Why can’t you be both? I feel really strongly about that whole concept in so many things in life” said Alison recently, and the dichotomy between the warm guitar, gentle whispers and the coldness of reality make of this song, and video, a pure celebration of freedom of expression without telling, or showing, the clichés of society’s dogmas.
Drew – Just like a fairy tale, or a horror movie, there is something mysterious about the leading single of the album. Alison rides a bike at the end of the video, like Annabel will do in the following film, and the orchestral arrangement makes us feel that the white snow outside is stained of sin. “Dream on your skin, on my tongue” sounds tempting and the “la, la, la, la, la” adds up to the cinematographic vibe of the song.
Ulla – Goldfrapp’s ability to never speak directly of feelings but let natural elements do the talking through metaphors is shown here. “Ask the lake, you’ll get all the answers” sings Alison in this track of self discovery through traveling and connection in a world that makes no sense. It has a positive feeling and a good dose of sane utopia.
Alvar – Alison tweeted that this is a Finnish name for a boy but we also know that it was inspired by a trip to Iceland. Enigmatic, that’s for sure, and the sinister and purposely distorted guitar leaves us a bit puzzled. “I find it really quite hard to summarise and articulate the meaning behind a song, I apologise for my rather incoherent explanations of my work”, said Miss Goldfrapp but we don’t need to know anything more when we have lines like “I want to swim your silk black skin to the floor”.
Thea – “There’s wild in your eyes oh Thea” and maybe it is not a coincidence that this is the only track featuring an uptemo rhythm and Goldfrapp’s trademark sentimental electronica. You may argue it doesn’t fit the mood of the album at first, but it actually works perfectly and makes you wish the next album would follow the musical direction of this track; liberating and cathartic. Something dangerous is happening in this cursed and dangerous town but Alison goes with her instincts as she looks at a “tender torn sundown on Isthmus”. Is this happening for real? Tension, drama, but ultimately romance in this endless night, “It’s all for you, oh hungry moon” as horses ride at the end of the track.
Simone – this is the story of a woman who came home to find her daughter in bed with her own lover. Simone is young and insatiable and her mother, who gave her “the world” is now devastated. The scene becomes a tale as it happens in front of her eyes and is described almost photographically in the lyrics. Along the piano and cavaquinho playing a dark and unsettling music, Alison’s ghostly voice abruptly ends this with “a tale to tell the world, it’s now your’s Simone”.
Stranger – A stranger arrives with a smile that sings and Alison immediately knows it, “you’ll be killing me gently”. It is an extremely sensorial track with a quite seducing Latino feel to it. Alison tries to be indifferent, sometime whistling, but “taken by the crowd, a ride”, she falls for the unknown. So passionate and sensual like a slow flamenco dance, we may not know the stranger’s name or identity, “you’re the in between, boy or girl” but we feel and almost smell everything about him/her as if we were in 1985’s novel “Perfume” by Patrick Süskind.
Laurel – Alison’s voice is soft and almost broken for this track, reminding us of the melancholic “Felt Mountain” era. There is some sort of iciness in her voice, in contrast with Laurel’s “red red hair + almond eyes.” She sounds as if she is watching the scene from far away while Laurel is “looking for a golden light”
Clay – The closing track is a love letter between two soldiers who fell in love during World War II. They don’t know if they would ever find each other again but there is a “beauty in this uncertainty” and since each lyric in the booklet in clearly handwritten by different people, when we read the line “WE fought them on great white sand” we know that this is true love. Violins and guitars celebrate this universal feeling and everything cryptic about “Tales Of Us” melts into a sweet and clear vision. Possibly the most important tale to tell, “my only love, sleep well good night”.
To download the app, go to the iTunes store.
Catch Goldfrapp live on November 1st 2013 Live at Hammersmith Apollo.