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Date April 16 2003
Type Mag
Source TimeOut London
Title Strange Fruit
Country UK
Journalist/Photographer Sharon O'Connell / Frank Bauer
Text Anyone with an ear for the strikingly beautiful and otherworldly might possibly only just have got their trousers back, having had them charmed right off by Goldfrapp's debut album. 'Felt Mountain' was triumphantly at odds with the prevailing sounds of 2000, a wildly extravagant and dramatically vivid blend of spaghetti western themes, opera, film noir soundtracks, oompah and '60s French pop, both awesomely panoramic and suffocatingly in scale.And it introduced a generally ear-boggled public to the impressively gilded pipes of Alison Goldfrapp.

Now, three years on, she and creative partner Will Gregory, who are Goldfrapp. are set to release their follow-up, 'Black Cherry', which might come as a surprise to anyone expecting more of the rarefied and carefully manicured same. It's weighted with deepdown, dirty electro-disco, driven by grinding rock dynamics, and is generally sexy as hell. Over much of it, the vocalist comes on like Donna Summer fronting The Glitter Band, or Jutee Cruise cutting some rug with Kraftwerks and if the throbbing glampop of 'Strict Machine' doesn't tear up floors the length of this nation come summer, justice is clearly deaf as well as blind. Ms Goldfrapp has just injected some very groovy rock into her role. Come and meet the dirty Kylie.

Sat in the plush suite of a central London hotel, hidden behind a huge pair of designer shade,. the tiny Ms Goldfrapp chuckles at that description, but acknowtedges a sea change. 'I did feel a little stifled by my own hand,' she admits, referring to 'Felt Mountain'. 'Much as I love this album, touring it for a year-and-a-half with its immaculateness and the way it's all really - tink. tink - tentative, I found it really claustrophobic. I thought: Fuck, I can't go out on the road again, playing another hour of slow, very intense music -I'll go mad! I like intense, but it has to be exor-
cised in different ways. I would have gone bonkers if we'd had to do that again. After a while, I Just longed to hear something - you know, doof! doof! - to break out of the straitjacket. l just wanted to express another mood."

Goldfrapp have certainly done that with 'Black Cherry'. The lushly soundscaped 'Deep Honey' and 'Forever' may hark back to "Felt Mountain', but this time around the pair were eager to be enslaved by rhythm.

'We had three songs we wrote while touring that we were going to put on the next album,' explains Goldfrapp, "but when it came to it and we sat down and listened to them, they somehow sounded like a parody of 'Felt Mountain". They had all the elements- the strings and the drama and the pitter-patter - but they just didn't feel right. I hale the idea of restraint and of genres,' she adds, 'because there were just so many other things me and Will were interested in. Stuff like old disco; what I really like about it is those big, anthemic tunes and the opulence and fantasy - both visually and in the music. And glam rock. I think that's probably because my big sister always played that sort of thing at home. She played the bass and she thought she was Suzi Quatro! She used to walk around with nails that long [indicates about six inches of acrylic splendourl] with bright green, glittery varnish on. I think it's that theatricalness that I'm drawn to."

Theatricality - it's a vital part of the Goldfrapp live experience. On stage, beneath a revolving mirrorball and surrounded by fairy lights, this tiny dynamo of a diva might be wearing fake bunches, false eyelashes and a cus-
tomised T-shirt emblazoned with a huge peace symbol. Or she might dress up like a WAF sweetheart in uniform and fishnets. Is Goldfrapp a fashion junkie or do the costumes provide a variety of alter egos to hide behind?

"No,' she laughs, 'I just really love dressing up. The visual thing runs parallel to the music and it always has for me: they're part of the same thing, so I like playing with different images and what they mean. The other night I thought about doing a gig in a skirt and jumper with a headscarf and seeing how I feel. I have dressed like that once for a show, but it felt totally wrong."

Do you have any icons, musical or otherwise? 'I used to haw a really big thing about Prince. And a bit of a thing about Soott Walker, who had this mad theatricality about his lyrics... Jack Nicholson, although he's a bit past it now.. Kate Bush, Patrick Moore...'

As in the television astronomer? 'Yes. I was quite into him at one stage. He had this mad thing going on with his eyebrows.'

Moore's influence isn't easy to spot on 'Black Cherry", but Prince's is. Goldfrapp's love was reignited when she first started Djing, in between theendof touring 'Felt Mountain' and going into the studio to begin work on the follow-up. She explains: I'd never done it before, but I did it with my friend Ruth, who can DJ, and it was really good fun. I was rediscovering things in my old, very minimal record collection-stuff like Donna Summer and ZZ Top, Pat Benatar, Burt Bacharach, Prince, Joan Jett... The great thing about the Djing was that suddenly I was doing something that wasn't about me. I was playing other people's records and I was with a mate and having a laugh. It was liberating and I wanted to carry that feeling of playfulness through into the next album - that "anything goes" attitude.'

This new album should help dispel a couple of assumptions - not only about the artistic scope of Goldfrapp the duo, but also about Alison Gotdfrapp the person. The intriguingly aloof, seemingly fragile creature of old has turned into a panting sex beast, on the grubbily libidinous 'Twist', at least. How so?

'We used lots of old analogue synth sounds that are like farting and grinding and squelching; they're kind of funny, as well as sounding organic and dirty.'

But it's more than just the sounds you've used; your attitude has shifted. 'If it's your first alum.' Goldfrapp considers, 'in a way it's the result of years and years of gathering information and, to me, 'Felt Mountain" is quite reflertive because of that. We had time to noodle on it, but with this LP we felt tike our time was much more condensed. That's scary, but it's also quite good, because you're put on the spot a bit. This album is much more about me and Will having fun. There are lots of little things I've done on it that I'd never done before, like writing a bass line. And "Twist" is pretty much a whole jam, most of which remained on tape. I remember going home really excited about that day, when we'd just turned everything up and had such a great time.

'The album look on a bit of a life of its own, really,' Goldfrapp muses, smiling. 'I don't think we intended it to be quite as dramatically different as it turned out.'

The sweet and wild 'Black Cherry' - it certainly lends a whole new meaning to the words "fruit machine'.

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