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As Goldfrapp, singer/composer/keyboardist Alison Goldfrapp and composer Will Gregory craft stylish electronic pop that's as wide-ranging as it is distinctive. Though their most danceable work was often their most successful -- 2005's Supernature and 2010's Head First both debuted in the top 10 in the UK and earned Grammy nominations in the US -- quieter albums like 2000's Felt Mountain and 2013's Tales of Us were just as powerful in their own right. Alison's quicksilver vocals, which could change from angelic to sultry and back again in an instant, and Gregory's lavish arrangements were Goldfrapp's only constants as they transformed influences including folk, cabaret, classical, disco, techno, '80s pop and glam rock into an adventurous body of work.
Born in Bath, England, Alison Goldfrapp first performed with Dance Company Catherine Massin and later incorporated music as part of her studies as a fine art painting major at Middlesex University, where she mixed sound, visuals, and performances in her installation pieces. While she was still in college, she appeared on her friend Tricky's 1995 debut, Maxinquaye, which led to appearances on albums by other cutting-edge electronic artists, including Orbital's Snivilisation and Add N to (X)'s Avant Hard.
By the late '90s, Goldfrapp began writing her own songs. One of her friends passed some of her demos on to composer Will Gregory; finding much in common in their musical tastes and approaches, the duo took Alison's surname as the name for their collaboration. After signing to Mute in 1999, Goldfrapp sequestered themselves in a countryside bungalow to make their debut album. When Felt Mountain arrived in 2000, it reflected the trip-hop boom of its time, but also reflected more unexpected influences such as folk and cabaret. The album was shortlisted for the 2001 Mercury Prize, and that year's synth-pop heavy Utopia Genetically Enriched EP suggested Goldfrapp's sound was already evolving.
Due to the demanding nature of the Felt Mountain tour, which called for as many as 40 supporting musicians, the duo pared back on its next album. Recorded in a studio in Bath, 2003's Black Cherry grew out of extensive jam sessions as well as Gregory and Alison's fondness for disco, glam-rock and techno. The album's sexier approach was exemplified by the single "Strict Machine," a top 20 hit in the UK that earned Goldfrapp an Ivor Novello Award for Best Dance Single in 2004. Capitalizing on Black Cherry's success -- the album went platinum in the UK and reached number four on Billboard's Top Electronic Albums chart in the US -- the duo doubled down on its dance leanings with 2005's Supernature. A set of sardonic and romantic songs set to steady beats, Goldfrapp's third album was a breakthrough that went platinum in the UK, sold over a million copies worldwide and earned a Grammy nomination for Best Electronic/Dance Album in 2007 (the album's glammy single "Ooh La La" snagged a Grammy nomination for Best Dance Recording). The duo followed it with the 2006 remix compilation We Are Glitter, which included the Flaming Lips' reworking of the track "Satin Chic."
Goldfrapp moved in a very different direction with 2008's The Seventh Tree. Inspired by paganism and an acoustic radio performance, the duo's fourth album traded the dancefloor for soothing ambient and folk-tinged songs such as the UK top 10 hit "A&E." In 2009, the group released its score to Sam Taylor-Wood's film about John Lennon as a youth, Nowhere Boy, which they recorded with a full orchestra at Abbey Road Studios. Gregory and Alison changed gears again on their fifth full-length, and borrowed the exuberance of '80s pop for 2010's Head First. Touching on the joyous sounds of the Pointer Sisters, Van Halen and Olivia Newton-John, the album debuted at number six in the UK and earned a Grammy Nomination for Best Electronic/Dance Album in 2011; the single "Rocket" received a nomination for Best Dance Recording. In 2012, Goldfrapp issued the Singles collection, which featured the previously unreleased songs "Yellow Halo" and "Melancholy Sky."
For 2013's Tales of Us, Goldfrapp revisited the moody introspection of Felt Mountain and The Seventh Tree, and took inspiration from classic authors and auteurs such as Patricia Highsmith, David Lynch, Ingmar Bergman, and Michelangelo Antonioni. The album also included short films for five of its songs directed by Alison's partner, filmmaker Lisa Gunning. After scoring a Royal National Theatre production of Medea, Goldfrapp returned to the studio in 2015, joined by co-producers John Congleton and the Haxan Cloak as well as guitarist Leo Abrahams. The results were 2017's Silver Eye, which balanced the duo's danceable and reflective sides. A year later, a deluxe version of the album featuring a duet with Depeche Mode's Dave Gahan arrived. ~ Heather Phares
- London, England
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