After the pastoral calm of 2013′s ‘Tales of Us’, Alison Goldfrapp and co-writer Will Gregory emerge from a murkier world with a sleek, sophisticated classic.
Not everything is at it seems
The first words Alison Goldfrapp sings on Silver Eye are “You’re what I want/ You’re what I need”. In terms of originality, it’s an inauspicious beginning. Listen to what leads up to this, however, and you’ll realise not everything is as it seems. Anymore’s synth line is so filthy and distorted it seems to be splitting the speakers, while Will Gregory’s jackhammer beat threatens to aggravate the damage. “Give me your love,” she continues, “Make me a freak”, and it’s apparent that, as her voice is swallowed by a swirling chorus, she’s had her wish granted. This heavy slice of four-to-the-floor electro is indeed freaky. It’s also the ideal introduction to the duo’s seventh album: a subtle, often wicked subversion of the familiar.
We’ve grown used to Goldfrapp reinventing themselves, but Silver Eye employs styles we’ve heard before, most notably on Black Cherry, then refreshes them. Its lyrics are dotted with images of transition: Anymore’s “The power of you transforming me”; Become The One’s “Become the one you know you are”; Ocean’s “I borrowed bones/I borrowed skin”.
Similarly, though its synth-heavy songs are most salient – the squelchy Become The One, the Garbage-like Systemagic (which isn’t the case of damning with faint praise it might appear to be) – almost everything here defies expectations. Part of this, one suspects, is to do with Silver Eye’s guests, especially Haxan Cloak aka Bobby Krlic, a Björk collaborator whose disconcerting solo work is unusually intensely textured.
Zodiac Black begins boldly, with just a heartbeat and a fragile voice, but drifts in and out of more chilling landscapes, matching lyrics describing “just a little light flickering out on the horizon”. Tigerman, too, with its rubbery bass synth and Vangelis radiance, is as otherworldly and enigmatic as its concise lyrics deserve, and under different circumstances its dreamy futurism could have suited Tales Of Us. In fact, when you consider Moon In Your Mouth’s suitably night-time atmosphere, and Faux Suede Drifter, in which vocals drift over a muted, mesmeric backing, it’s clear that Silver Eye – though analogous to their previous work – is as original as anything Goldfrapp have done. It’s also as appealingly freaky as its final lines: “I see the dark/ I Hear their hooves/ They’re coming/ Coming for you.” It’s just as well you can hide in its shadows. Wyndham Wallace