On September 9th the duo behind the electronic-dance band Goldfrapp are set to release their sixth studio album, Tales of Us. It’s a stripped-down venture for the usually bold team, as singer Alison Goldfrapp told Australia’s The Age: “It’s black and white. In a way reflecting the music as I like the simplicity of black and white: there’s something very graphic about it.” It’s no coincidence that Goldfrapp used visual terms to describe their music; the duo has been merging visuals and sound during their entire 14 years together.
Both of the band’s members have their roots in the fine arts; Alison, a classically trained opera singer, studied art at Middlesex University while synth player and keyboardist Will Gregory is a classically trained musician who studied at the University of York in their native England. Given her art background, Alison usually takes the lead in terms of Goldfrapp’s art direction as she told Rolling Stone: ”Will trusts my judgment, but I always ask for his opinion.” With that free reign over the visual aspects, Alison has melded art and music into a multisensory experience for those watching Goldfrapp in concert or via a music video.
Alison’s on-stage personas are as much of a reflection of the music as the set or videos are. Her own self-designed looks have run the gamut from a new-wave minotaur (complete with a horsetail hanging from her hot pants), to sadomasochistic inspired military uniforms, and she’s presented herself as everything from a decadent silent film star to a bleach blonde disco diva. Her outfits are the finishing touch on the all-encompassing experience that is watching a Goldfrapp show or music video. However, unlike other female singers, Alison’s wardrobe only seems to enhance the seeing/hearing experience the band strives for, not distract or divert attention from it. It’s as if she operates as a mechanism in an art performance, not her own separate attraction.
Unlike other artists, Goldfrapp’s music isn’t the type that would work without visuals. The throbbing bass lines and multiplying synths seem to demand pulsing lights and visual excess, which Goldfrapp gladly delivers. Their concerts have featured inflatable arches illuminated by multi-colored strobe lights and backup dancers wearing mirrored horse head masks. Perhaps the biggest testament to Goldfrapp’s dedication to melding visuals and music is their music videos. They have earned a reputation for creating some of the most unique and unforgettable music videos in the industry, which says a lot considering their generally limited budget. One only needs to watch the video for “Strict Machine” to understand the Goldfrapp philosophy of visuals and sound being hand in hand.
Author Bio: Spencer Blohm is an entertainment and music blogger for Direct-ticket.net. A longtime fan of Goldfrapp, he has always longed for the disco horse in the music video for “Ooh La La”. He lives and works in Chicago with his cat who, alas, is not made of mirrors.