From Soho to Suffolk...
Goldfrapp's last album, 2005's Supernature, had the eponymous singer cast as an S&M girl next door, twirling a bull whip and being refracted in the light of a million glitterballs to a knee trembling soundtrack a la Moroder on the decks at a Torture Garden party for civil service mandarins. In a world in which leaked home made porn films are becoming fast recognised as a smart career move for the 21st century female celebrity, it looked like an inspired move, if a cliched one. At it's heart however whilst there was little in the way of public denial, there was an air of hollow uncertainty about the sex is my business positioning. Whilst perviness shifts units on a novelty basis (Ask Girls Aloud) the Alison Goldfrapp of Felt Mountain - the duo's more challenging initial release - was clearly going to reject having her conscience salved by watching the yen pour in or with offers of guest apperances in Argentinan beer adverts. The strippers gyrating guilelessly to Sick Machine had missed the point; the salaciouness on display here after all was an idiosyncratic byproduct, not merely a clumsy device.
It's appropriate here to drop in the warning; listeners who picked up the story at that juncture may struggle to deal with the extraction and subsequent teleportation from Supernature's environment. Whilst Mute have wisely led the charm offensive with single A&E, this is merely an age old tactic of running with what would appear to be something for recent admirers to most easily latch onto. A moribund aftermath tale of a bad drug experience with Goldfrapp trilling the refrain "I'm in a backless, dress on a pastel ward" against a straightforwardly accoustic backdrop, it's a piece of accidentally deceptive understatement.
Those who have sailed through the spoiler stand by; you're about to be rewarded in spectacular way. This is because the rest of Seventh Tree is a collection of psychedelic pop/folk which few people would have been brave enough to take on, let alone pull of with such inventive alacrity. Quite simply, it's one of the most original, uplifting and tactile records of the year.
Like all great albums, it's charms are numerous; the bucolic simplicity of opener Clowns, the unashamed Sgt. Pepper-esque footstomping of Happiness or the ascending choral melody of Caravan Girl's sumptuous bitch-slapped prog. But whilst the music is seemingly flown in from another dimension, it's also that rare thing in contemporary pop, a statement about the disposability of fame from through the other side of the looking glass, where our heroine is tired and bored of the treadmill and chooses the real world. Anyone who releases a song like the Eat Yourself, which starts with the kind of distorted banjo which featured on the theme tune to Bagpuss and finds itself less than four minutes later idyllically waking up in the arms of James Bond is frankly, in the context of mainstream entertainment career, showing two fingers to it's stricture and reward systems. Seventh Tree's trajectory is in fact a stunning career re-evaluation, a rare piece of chrysalis shedding which hasn't focussed on resplitting the commonest denominator. And in it's innate courage lies a soliloquy for the modern soul.