British duo goes pop, rolled up with disco in “Supernature”
The raucous crowd at the Nokia Theater on December 9 for a sneak peek at the new Goldfrapp album may have been an oracle. Since the U.K. release last fall and subsequent European tour, fans have scooped up this new album by English duo Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory, turning their third release into an instant success. In U.S. record shops as of March 7, “Supernature” takes the best of Goldfrapp’s ambient sound, gives it a jolt of electro-pop, and emerges with one hot album.
Their first releases, “Felt Mountain” (2000) and “Black Cherry” (2003), showcased Goldfrapp’s psychedelic, electronic anthems. “Supernature” departs from these lush, ambient landscapes by merging synthesizers with sexually charged lyrics. This move to pop is showcased by Goldfrapp’s breathy voice on the first track, “Ooh La La,” as she sings, “Switch me on, turn me up/ oh child of Venus you’re just/ made for love.”
Critics have called Goldfrapp’s sound “discotronic,” for the layered vocals, strings and drums, comparing “Supernature” to late ‘70s Donna Summer tracks overlaid with electronica.
Goldfrapp admitted that disco is among the duo’s many sources of inspiration.
“Our influences are so broad even on our first album,” said Goldfrapp in a phone interview. “That was something we talked about when we first met, how we love big arrangements that are unashamedly romantic and opulent. We’ve always been attracted to that, and we are inspired by different things like disco, electronic, a lot of classical music as well, film scores, and we love the simplicity of European pop music.”
The songs often channel the soaring in “Fly Me Away,” galloping on “White Horse” and howling on the final track, with Goldfrapp singing, “You’re my number one/ I’m like a dog to get you.”
She identifies with animals, using animalistic imagery and appearing onstage wearing stag’s heads or horse’s tails. At the Nokia, she wore a black cat suit—her dancers clad in wolf masks—and later, dressed in silvery android outfits.
Goldfrapp noted that humans have always used animals as metaphors in art and literature, saying, “We use them to express our own ideas about self, emotions, everything from fairy tales to classical paintings. They are part of our culture, something sort of weird and wonderful and humorous, that can be part surreal.”
Asked about her own animal totem, Goldfrapp confided, “I identify with a horse. I suppose there’s something powerful to them, because they’ve been depicted in art and literature in so many different ways, in all cultures. There is a beauty and strength about them, and a kind of mystery that also gives them a sort of sexuality.”
This mystery and sexuality runs through the songs on “Supernature;” “Satin Chic” is a perfect example.
“There is this idea that someone is dressed head to toe in satin, dripping in sexuality, oozing, but there is also the idea of having to present yourself as a character, stepping out into the public sort of on a red carpet,” said Goldfrapp. “Ultimately ‘Satin Chic’ is about possessiveness, having to pretend you are feeling good even when you’re shit. Sometimes you have to step out and pretend everything’s okay when really it fucking isn’t.”
Judging by the turnout at the Nokia Theater, gay fans have embraced this sensibility. This holds true across the pond.
“We do have quite a big gay following across Europe,” said Goldfrapp. “I suppose our music is quite dramatic and opulent. There is also a sensuality that I think maybe historically has gone down well with the gay crowd, and there’s an ambiguity as to what we do.”
This popularity trumps the difficulty in classifying the duo’s genre.
“Even though the music is pop music of a sort, it is not out-and-out pop,” said Goldfrapp. “I think sometimes people don’t know quite how to pinpoint what we do. We are not pop, not rock, and not totally in left field either, but still we are received really well. We’ve done some great gigs in Europe, and we’re onward and upward.”
Goldfrapp’s schedule calls for additional touring, but she admitted, “We really want to get writing again. I love playing live but really get the urge to write again; there’s only so much touring I can deal with. I find it so consuming.”
“Until me and Will get into a room together and start writing and laying down tracks, I’ll never really know where the next album is going,” she said of the band’s next project. “We start with something very specific and it goes into a different direction. That’s what I find very exciting about music. We’d also like to do music for an orchestra and some film music, but I think those things will come when they come.”