Floating back to happiness: Goldfrapp – Seventh Tree

by 5:4

Good music likes company, it seems, as three CDs came through my letterbox this morning, Autechre‘s Quaristice – strange, as it’s not released until Saturday – and Gantz Graf (which i’ve loved for years, but only now got round to buying), plus Goldfrapp‘s new album Seventh Tree, released yesterday. i therefore took time off from my compositional/Autechre duties this morning, to hear finally what Goldfrapp has been up to. i have the deluxe edition, which is quite a package, coming in a small box…

… with the CD, …

… an accompanying DVD, …

… four postcards, …

… a small book of lyrics, all handwritten (just two of the spreads are shown below) …

… and a poster – which is too big to scan.

All of this paraphernalia would count for little if the music wasn’t worth listening to. In fact, buying this album was an almost total act of faith on my part, due to how unimpressed i had been with their last album, Supernature, which struck me as a poor attempt to re-create and extend the sound-world from Black Cherry. But i do have faith in Goldfrapp; their first two albums, Felt Mountain in particular, are too superb to be created by accident. Alison Goldfrapp’s interview in this month’s Clash magazine convinced me to give them another chance.

With good reason: Seventh Tree is fabulous, bathed in originality and with it a determined confidence in what they’re doing. Which is, i suspect, something many will find a surprise, and perhaps an unappealing one: stripping away the electronica and beats, replacing them with a much more acoustic, folk-like sound. Far from being a detraction from what Goldfrapp does best, it highlights that, at heart, beneath the sheen and glitter, they simply write really good songs, with evocative, allusive lyrics, enriched by harmonies and textures that allow a real emotional depth to emerge. To say it bears a similarity to Felt Mountain could give the wrong impression, but it’s true, chiefly due to the emphasis given here to melody, as well as to a kind of raw joy that feels compromised on the later two albums. But the best parts of Black Cherry inform this album too; the presence of “Hairy Trees” lurks like an eminence gris in some of the songs.

Speaking of which: “Road To Somewhere” could be a sequel to “Hairy Trees”, mellow but, paradoxically, gently elated. “Cologne Cerrone Houdini” is even more exultant, Alison Goldfrapp’s voice threatening to float away entirely if it wasn’t grounded by the throbbing bass and terse string motifs. They come as close as ever to an anthem with “Caravan Girl”, which makes you want to jump up and down, singing along. But maybe the album is best encapsulated in an early track, “Happiness”, the title of which says it all.

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