Few electronic groups have crept up on the collective pop culture mindset in recent years quite like Goldfrapp. The British duo, comprised of Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory, is set to release its third disc, Supernature (on Mute/EMI), on Tue, Feb 21. Known for ethereal vocal treatments, sweeping synthesized soundscapes and lush instrumentation, the duo is riding a wave of increasing popularity in the UK and Europe and is already well known among followers of electro and dance culture in North America. The group has easily carved out a comfortable niche in the flooded marketplace. Not an easy feat. With Goldfrapp, you get the sense that Goldfrapp and Gregory know style and content go hand in hand.
Since the critically acclaimed 2000 debut Felt Mountain and 2003’s Black Cherry, Goldfrapp has moved toward groove and melody, away from the more textured, ethereal and moody earlier efforts. On the phone from the band’s home base in Bath, England, Alison Goldfrapp says there’s been no real deliberate attempt to go pop. “There is no grand plan,” she says. “We just go into the studio and whatever we are feeling will just come out.”
The duo must be in a mood to dance, then, since Supernature is its poppiest outing so far.
“Ooh La La,” released last year as Supernature’s first single in Europe, features a driving chorus and a glam-rock groove, straight off a Marc Bolan/T-Rex A-side. “Ride A White Horse” is both addictive and ridiculous. The group seems to relish the absurdity of it all. Without question, Alison Goldfrapp knows her strengths. “Now take me dancing at the disco/ When you buy your Winnebago/ I wanna ride on a white horse,” she croons over a staccato beat and a crisp synth arrangement.
Like all the best British pop stars of the past 30 years, Alison has roots in art school, which seems to inform the band’s image and sound on a very fundamental level. In the campy video for “Ride A White Horse,” she dances amid garbage, rotten food, a trash-eating mummy and is seen enjoying a slice of pizza garnished with cigarette butts. “The video was not our idea,” she says, laughing, “it was [Diane Martel] the director’s concept completely. But, yes, it has a certain memorable quality to it.”
Elsewhere on Supernature, Bolan-isms are revived on “Satin Chic” and “Lovely 2 C U.” But Goldfrapp has not relinquished its penchant for minor-key, quiescent soundscapes first explored on Felt Mountain. “Time Out From The World,” a Supernature highlight and quite possibly their most beautiful song, is the kind of track made for lounging in a warm bath with a glass of merlot in hand — at times both sad and luxurious, and ultimately gorgeous. On some level, this is music for a film that will probably never be made. “Our ideas or influences are just hard to pin down, but it’s… well, everything really. When I was young, I took it all in.”