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For a genre that has simplicity at its heart, for some reason electronic pop music seems to be phenomenally difficult to get right. Perhaps it is because simplicity is integral to its make-up, as well as relatively easy to forge with todays' computing power, many producers and 'artists' make the basic error of mistaking the simple with the simplistic. The former requires a good dose of talent to conjure up something that makes the listener go 'I wish I'd thought of that', rather than 'this is dreadful, please make the radio stop playing it'. While electronic pop might seem to be firmly in the clutches likes of JLS and Little Mix and The Wanted and all those other reprehensible manufactured 'bands' that would be better suited to a career in magazine modeling, it's wonderfully refreshing to hear a genuinely creative duo like Goldfrapp using the medium for what it was intended i.e. an alternative channel to write decent songs.
The difference between Goldfrapp and those X-Factor generated plastic media exhibits is instantly noticeable in the music's treatment several seconds in. There's no obvious vocoders or autoune here, nor any of those generic irritiating effects that Ministry of Sound seem to turn into endless compilation albums. Band members Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory use the spectrum of electronica to full effect and create new and interesting sounds. And it soon becomes obvious that in a world of altered vocals and cheap effects used to mask an obvious lack of musical talent that Alison Goldfrapp really can sing; she's got the voice of a 1930s femme fatale jazz singer, but slinks about in a 21st century digital world that had its foundations built by Kraftwerk, Ultravox and Gary Numan. She's got a mesmerising voice, which is no doubt subliminally enhanced on the male section of the audience, as opening the CD inlay reveals her in a very striking pose wearing nothing but a trailing burlesque skirt made entirely of peacock feathers. Ooh la la....
...is the named of the first track, and it sets the standard for the whole album. The synths have ambience as well as a subtle impetus, driving themsleves with their own rhythmic pace rather than using a lame-sounding drum machine. It's washed with subtle hooks and textures, and its velvety tones between the punch of the chorus is a theme that pervades throughout. 'Lovely 2 C U' is a bit harsher, and despite its text-speak title it's captivating in its clash of dirty-sounding synths and Alison's breathy vocals. 'Ride a White Horse' is a clear nod to T.Rex in its title, and although synthpop and glam rock might seem not the closest of musical cousins, there is a definite Marc Bolan influence in their music - if one replaced the synths with guitars, the structure and delivery of some of these songs could come straight from a T. Rex album.
'You Never Know' is the best song Kate Bush never wrote - in fact Alison Goldfrapp's vocals are so similar I thought it was an uncredited guest appearance by the elusive Kate, but it wasn't. 'Let It Take You' and 'Fly Me Away' are quite a haunting track, as a faint pulse akin to a life-support machine bleeps along while ominous chords crash on it like ocean waves, and it's another very Kate Bush-esque sounding piece, similar to the stuff found on 'Hounds of Love'.
The songs are also nicely to the point. While a lot of electronica can end up smearing itself into lengthy 'soundscapes' that are even harder to pull off than just pop songs, Goldfrapp keep brevity in mind and none of these songs outstays its welcome. 'Satin Chic' is glam to the hilt, and while there is a certain kitsch quality to Goldfrapp, it's done with a wit that is a rare find. Listening to the odd sounds that pervade this album now some seven years on, it's clearly standing the test of time and doesn't sound dated at all. I think it's going to outlast dubstep at any rate.
Summing up the album's feel as a whole is the opening line to closing track 'Number One', as Alison's silky tones (sorry, I freely admit that I am slightly besotted by her voice and will stop openly drooling over her soon, I promise) slide into the line 'Walk out, into velvet...' It neatly encapsulates the album, as the whole record is one of subtle tones that hint at hedonism. And 'Time Out from the World' should have been used as a Bond theme. In fact I'd like to see a Bond film with that title, as Daniel Craig spends a fortnight fishing or going on a package holiday... or maybe not, come to think of it. Either way, it has all the glam and over-the-top quality required for an appearance on a 007 soundtrack.
Digital effects in electronic pop is to music what CGI is to the movies - it's mostly cheap, stultifying and smothers the need for genuine creativity and imagination. But there are rare occasions where it's used to great effect, blending seemlessly with the other pieces in the toolbox and creating something interesting and evocative. The special sonic effects here are special because they're carefully thought out and don't slam you in the face like compressed, vocoder-drenched cack. As Spinal Tap said, there's a fine line between clever and stupid, and this is definitely on the clever side.
Supernature is an electronica album released by the famous duo, Goldfrapp named after the lead singer Alison Goldfrapp. Supernature was released in 2005. There's been a lot of heavy electronica influence in music in recent years with the use of autotune and heavy use of synthesizers. Fortunatly Goldfrapp are one of those bands who take pride of their electronic routes and pushes them to the boundaries. The music reminds me of Saturday Nights because by complete accident, they've made some catchy and rather delicate dance tunes. Alison's poignant voice matches the music perfectly and gives it the extra chilling effect that the music already has to give us.
There are obvious disco influences, but the disco sounds are very submissive whilst the ambient electronic sounds are much more dominant. I think that this is one of Goldfrapp's most accessible albums. The pleasant experiments offer a commercial charm and also high artistic value. It's the sort of album that tries to provide a little bit of everything to please everybody. I think Goldfrapp did a good job on this album. I don't think that this album has aged at all to be honest. It sounds a lot fresher than some pop albums I've heard from 2009, 2010, and 2011.
Supernature kicks off with the seductive hit Ooh La La. It's deep, contains a very simple beat which repeats itself a lot, but it's super effective. This is one of the first songs I've heard from Goldfrapp, and I think it's a very iconic song. I remember hearing this song on a couple of advertisements. To be honest, I prefer Lovely 2 C U a lot more than Ooh La La because I think it's got a lot more substance. I love the chorus to this song. I love it's pace because it makes me hyped up.
Ride On A White Horse is a super glamorous song with lyrics that might take a while to get into it. It's a fine sound with an infectious beat and icy vocals. I like how Alison and her right hand man, Will Gregory go mad on this song. It makes the next track You Never Know very surprising as it's a lot more eerie and translucent, I like it's strong cinematic sound.
Let It Take You changes the upbeat mood into a more gloomy mode with a slow pace. I think that this has a very dreamy tone to it and I personally find this song to be really romantic. This also mixes the cinematic ambient sound with the clever keyboards. I can't help but feel that when I'm listening to this song that I feel underwater.
Fly Away brings the album back to it's fast paced and adventurous synthpop. Fly Away would be a great song for driving, it's got that energetic drive. I think Alison's voice calms everything down though. But the beats and rhythm on this song is quite impressive.
I can't help but feel that Slide In is a song about sex. "Slide in: feel the future rushing slowly right now." This chorus makes me think of reproduction. There's nothing really dirty about this song apart from the baseline. I like Alison's vocals on this one, I think it sounds really awesome especially the high pitched notes.
I love Koko because of it's solid baseline and oriental beats. This really reminds me of Kate Bush because of the poetic lyrics and synthetic baseline. I think that they might also remind other people of Depeche Mode because they make some great synthpop music. I think Koko is one of my favourite tracks from this album because I think it's really intense and fills my ears with wonderful sounds.
Satin Chic has a really strange and eerie. This song is about three minutes, but feels like a minute. I think song is somewhat similar to Oh La La as in it's quite repetitive and simple without being dull and boring. It's the complete opposite for Time Out For The World is quite slow and ethereal. When I hear Time Out For The World, I have to stop what I'm doing because I find the trance beats, ambient flow and Alison's voice really hypnotising. It also reminds me of Madonna's album Ray Of Light.
The last track of the album is ironically called Number 1. It uses a lot of fashion and dog metaphors in the lyrics and use them to say the person they love is their master. It's of the same quality and vibe as the previous tracks. I don't think it's as good as the other tracks though because it doesn't progress as much, although it might be because I thought Time Out For The World was so good that I was expecting something better for the finale, but under delivered.
A strange beast are Goldfrapp, a duo of electronica-friendly musicians who feature a haunting, ambient vocalist and a hard synthesizer as their primary instrument, but refuse to be wilfully obtuse and obscure or only realise a new album once every decade or so. And they aren't named after a place in the south of England, neither - their name comes from vocalist Alison Goldfrapp. The band put together an album of offputting electronic oddness for their debut and spread out a little for their second album Black Cherry. This, their third album, sees them soar into the realm of glam-rock, replacing the low key white noises of first album Felt Mountain with powerful guitars and offbeat synthesizers, to mixed effect.
When the band try to emulate the effortless glamour of T.Rex, they are at their best, such as on glitzy album opener "Ooh La La" which sees the duo open their arms up to the electro-rock monster and try out a stadium-filling tune. Whilst they don't quite hit that pinnacle at any point on the album, this is the most accessible song they've made to date, and is filled with camp energy and pizzazz. Surprisingly, the album is not a Scissor Sisters-lite, as this is one of the rare songs where they actually head for that realm of camp dancefloor pop. Elsewhere on the album they tend to focus on buzzing slices of offbeat ambience, most notably with "Slide In", which walks a line of grandstanding ethereality. The music audibly crackles as Alison coos the in-no-way-subtle chorus "slide in/feel the future", and allows a glamorous decadence into the song. "Koko" does much the same thing, but with an added drum machine contributing small notes of percussion in the backdrop. Goldfrapp have taken on this album to the idea of packing their music with as much as they can, adding substance to the style they've always attempted to exude.
This continuing experimental side to the band slow them down on several occasions and make the album rather more patchy than it should be. For every chilled-out synth that "Number 1" has to offer, the band contrast it with the jarring "You Never Know". Whilst both songs operate around the same basic template of Alison's hauntingly light voice and grinding electro keyboards which audibly simmer, the resulting effect of both songs is drastically different. Whereas closer "Number 1" has a walking pace mentality and slow rhythm which rests languidly alongside Alison's voice, You Never Know seems forced and completely out of place here. It's an annoyance to listen to, although the chorus is a drastic improvement on the verses that precede. Meanwhile Number 1, perhaps the most low-key the band get on the album, walks away with the record. It's a sizzling electro pitter-patter which is seriously difficult to stop humming three days later.
There are other moments of painful awkwardness - "Satin Chic",
which seems to have been designed to emulate the arcade machines at the end of the pier, is so camp it's unlovable and irritating, and ultimately goes nowhere during the length of its three minute run. "Lovely 2 C U" is obviously meant as a piss-take, but that doesn't mean the song itself is exempt from criticism. Although the thundering bass notes give the song some power, the entire track feels more like a B-Side than something to actually put on the final CD. It feels shallow and unlikable, and after a few listens grows to become actively irritating. The band are much better when they stick to making music that feels like it has some sort of merit, and to their credit they seem to realise this, veering away from going overboard whenever they can. The record is really a lot more low-key than flashy - more akin to The Postal Service than The Scissor Sisters.
"Let It Take You" is a song which completely absorbs the listener, a slow meandering number which washes over with a simple elegance. Likewise, "Time Out From The World" has an epic sensibility, a calming track which oozes sex from every note. Alison Goldfrapp is an astounding vocalist, who completely sells the chorus of the song every time, rising with the music so that her high pitched singing note feels restrained and serene. It's a superb way to close off the album, and is in retrospect the obvious building block for the band to make their next album, Seventh Tree. The ethereal sounds of both songs spins off into a whole new direction for the band, one that pays off tremendously. A mix of both styles of music, "Fly Me Away" makes for the best transition between the otherworldly echoes of "Let It Take You" and the dancefloor stamp of "Slide In", providing a solid pop song which has an instant hook. Possibly the most enjoyable song of the album, though, is "Ride A White Horse", an intense blip of a backing track which gives Alison her chance to really stamp herself over a song. She goes into full-on diva mode for the song, like a female Marc Bolan. "Take me dancing/at the disco/when you buy your/Winnebago" she slurs enchantingly, in the single best pop moment of the album. Here, the band capture their sound perfectly, and give us a song which matches up to the expectations of anyone who sees the album cover (she's a game girl, isn't she, is that Alison Goldfrapp).
Although occasionally slipping into forgettable nonsense and camp luxuries, Supernature is the most consistent and solid album the duo have produced out of their first three records. Just don't go buying it in the expectation that it's a disco record.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Ooh La La
2 Lovely 2 C U
3 Ride A White Horse
4 U Never Know
5 Let It Take U
6 Fly Me Away
7 Slide In
9 Satin Chic
10 Time Out From The World
11 Number 1