Where does a band go after 17 years in the game? That’s the question Will Gregory and Alison Goldfrapp were forced to answer when, after a few years of other projects, the duo reunited to write and record Silver Eye, Goldfrapp’s seventh album. It will be released on March 31 and you can hear it in full at the band’s only Australian concert in June as part of Vivid Sydney (which just announced this year’s line-up).
It’s tempting to call the synth-driven Silver Eye a return to Goldfrapp’s electronica roots. At first listen, it’s closer to the disco-indebted albums Black Cherry (2003) or Supernature (2005) than the ambient folk-influenced pop of 2013’s Tales of Us. But for Gregory, the album is more a melding of the two Goldfrapps: a stripped-back and spacious affair that still carries the themes of paganism, mysticism and nature explored more explicitly in recent efforts. After all, Silver Eye is named after a crescent moon.
“It has more of a disturbed and darker atmosphere,” says Gregory. “It feels a little deeper, too. And while that element of slight wildness and rawness is in some of the earlier things that we did, those albums definitely have a disco ball in there with them. They’re a bit glitzier on the surface. [On Silver Eye] I think the surface has come off.”
Gregory attributes the relative sparseness of Silver Eye to working with producers such as John Congleton and David Wrench, who has worked with Caribou, FKA Twigs and The xx, but also cites a willingness to let go of pretensions.
“I remember working [on this album] initially with just drums and base sounds and it was so simple and reduced,” says Gregory. “So I said to Alison, ‘I’m sorry, this has gone a bit basic’, but she liked it. We realised we’re both going for more primal, slightly unsophisticated elements in music.”
Assuredness echoes through Silver Eye, especially on tracks Anymore and Oceans, the bookends of the album and the two singles released so far. Goldfrapp improvised the vocals and lyrics for the latter, and the track’s aggression ebbs and flows like the tides it’s inspired by. They went with the first take.
Confidence also bubbles to the surface on Become The One, a song inspired by American documentary My Transgender Summer Camp. It simplifies identity into a sentence – “become the one you are” – before breaking into a beat. This is a band that knows what it’s doing and is allowed to do it: for the first time Goldfrapp has complete creative control over the band’s visuals, from music videos to performances and photo shoots.
“I’ve always tried to encourage Alison to take more ownership because I think she has a flair for the visual side of it,” says Gregory. “She’s a trained visual artist, so it feels like a long time coming.”
That flair took Goldfrapp to Fuerteventura, part of the Canary Islands. The ashen sand, dramatic cliffs and harsh, hot deserts make a striking backdrop for the Anymore video, released in February. In it a troupe of women with shaved heads dance through the landscape, reminiscent of Charlize Theron’s clan in Max Max: Fury Road. The violence of their movements is matched by the assertiveness with which Goldfrapp sings: “I can’t wait, I can’t wait anymore.”
The Vivid show will be a chance to see Goldfrapp unconstrained. Gregory promises a “lot more jugular” with a full live band, Fuerteventura-inspired visuals and a set list of new and old songs that meld into one another in a seamless rhythm that will span a career.
Goldfrapp’s new album Silver Eye is released March 31 and it performs at Carriageworks on June 2. Tickets are $100 and on sale 9am Thursday March 16.