Electronic sex appeal
It is generally accepted that the term electronica was coined by British music paper Melody Maker, in the mid-1990s, to describe the electronic rock band Republica. MTV caught on and the media now lump everything involving anything electronic into this “genre”.
The term has been used to describe musicians such as Daniel Bedingfield and RÃ¶yksopp, even though these artists are as far apart on the music spectrum as one could possibly get.
It is with this in mind that I hesitate to lump Goldfrapp into the same media-created grouping.
Yes, Will Gregory composes and arranges with the use of electronic equipment, but the resulting sound is fresh and original—and is equally appealing when played live by a five-piece outfit. Goldfrapp are simply too experimental to be boxed in, much like outfits such as Tortoise, Portishead and Boards of Canada.
In this arena of experimentation and innovation, Goldfrapp glitter. Felt Mountain was rich, intoxicating and decidedly languid. Black Cherry was tailored to be played live, a set list of dark, sultry tracks designed to thrill audiences. Their newest offering, Supernature, falls somewhere in between. It’s more upbeat than Felt Mountain, but lighter when compared with Black Cherry. Alison Goldfrapp takes her vocals a scale higher on most tracks, which Gregory complements with gothic pop soundscapes.
The first single, Ooh La La, is all shiny glam and sex appeal. Ride a White Horse is flirty and all about the beat. The slightly disjointed Lovely to See You puts Goldfrapp’s vocal abilities on amazing display. And yet, for all Supernature‘s gorgeousness, the collection of tracks titled Black Cherry still holds more appeal in the way it explores previously unheard aural territory and taps into new sections of the brain.
Hopefully, now that Goldfrapp have caught the attention of the mainstream—they are plastered all over London—it will allow them the luxury of returning to the sound that caught the world’s attention in the first place.
ALSO ON THE SHELF
The Beta Band
The Best of the Beta Band Music (Regal)
I want to see the Beta Band live! “Good evening London, how the fuck are you?” As the crowd roars, the throbbing of It’s Not Beautiful begins, and it’s one hell of a ride. I’m talking about the live recording that accompanies the recently released Beta Band best-of compilation. Recorded live at Shepherd’s Bush Empire at the end of last year, it’s an amazing performance by a band in their last days. The live and studio recordings collected here are a testament to the band and their sonic experimentation. Alas, for those like me who didn’t get to see the Beta Band while they were with us, we at least have their songs and this great concert. —Lloyd Gedye
Back Home (Reprise)
Remember the days when, strolling down the streets of London, one couldn’t help but be confronted with the proclamation that Clapton was indeed God, sprawled across this wall or that? No? Well, neither do I, but it is well documented.
Clapton was, after all, the guitar aficionado from such legendary bands as The Yardbirds, Cream and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Because of my fondness for his early work, Back Home, his new album, is a bitter pill to swallow. To be honest, it has to rank up there with his lowest career moments. It’s an incredibly sentimental collection with a number of covers, including his late friend George Harrison’s Love Comes to Everyone.
The music drifts nauseatingly between rock, soul and reggae, and Clapton’s domestic bliss with his wife and three daughters shine through in his lyrics. As the album art work illustrates, things may be all birds and rainbows back home for Clapton, but on my stereo it’s uninspiring. —LG
Decades: Five Decades of Hits (Universal)
Same old pop, same old artists, on two CDs, all in chronological order, from Bill Haley and His Comets’ (We’re Gonna) Rock around the Clock to Ronan Keating’s If Tomorrow Never Comes. You’ve heard it all before on countless compilation albums. —Riaan Wolmarans
Joyful Rebellion (EMI)
In 2002, Trinidadian-born K-Os released his debut album, Exit. Allegedly meant to double up as his frustrated swan song, it propelled him to the fore as the great rap hope of Canada, ahead of veteran compatriots such as Choclair, Kardinal Offishall and Saukrates.
Despite signalling the emergence of a musical visionary not unlike erstwhile Wyclef Jean, Exit was a decidedly gloomy and didactic affair that simply added another 60 or so minutes to the endless dirge bemoaning the state of hip-hop.
With Joyful Rebellion, this eclectic guitarist/pianist—who has a delivery akin to Black Eyed Peas frontman Will.I.Am—returns with his heart still on his sleeve but with his mind decidedly on the dance floor. And as he reveals with a hint of melancholy on the orchestral The Love Song, it’s all a shrewd chess move: “I’m just a fool playing with master’s tools / Learning how to break the rules of this record industry coup.”
And break the rules he does, successfully, to the point that it’s surprising that the majors sanctioned it. The Police, Public Enemy, The Fugees, Pink Floyd and The Roots are all referenced via a lush sonic template that shifts gears as it traverses the Caribbean archipelago. Ultimately, it lands us where pop music—or is that hip-hop—could be if all the artists could just stop being “fools in paradise”. —Kwanele Sosibo
“If to be a singer of fado is in the end a term of scorn skimming over the mouths of the world, then I am not a singer of fado. But if it’s to set off on a conquest of so much disregarded verse, then I am not a singer of fado but the very fado itself,” says Portuguese Fadista Mariza on her new album, Transparente.
What is fado, you may ask? Ancient Portuguese folk music is the answer. It is traditionally sung by males (and occasionally females), accompanied by a Portuguese and a classical guitar. Mariza is of a new breed of contemporary fado musicians who have incorporated other musical influences and taken fado to new audiences.
The essential element of fado music is “saudede”, a Portuguese word that translates as longing or nostalgia for unrealised dreams, which explains Mariza’s lyrics from her song Medo (Fear). “From what inside me, I’d even like to kill myself, but I know that will have to wait.” If you are looking for something different, give this CD a go. —LG