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Goldfrapp
Shepherds Bush Empire
Tuesday 4th December

Nathan Midgley

There are no two ways about it: Alison Goldfrapp is a Singer. Not just a woman who can sing. A Singer. The music press might have been gushing over her Mercury-nominated debut Felt Mountain like Aunties over a newborn babe, but the thirty-year old ex-convent girl is no newcomer. Before hooking up with composer Will Gregory for her current project she provided distinctive backing vocals for some of the most respected acts around.

Critics have latched onto her appearance on Bristol rapper Tricky's cult classic Maxinquaye above all others, though, with the inevitable result that the words 'trip-hop' adorn every feature, review and interview bearing her name. A fine compliment if the term still referred to Massive Attack's moody dub or the wayward genius of Tricky himself, but surely a tad insulting now that it evokes little more than sub-Morcheeba Chill-Out Album fodder?

In fact, this is a totally different species of music. Trip-hop took an element of attitude from the hip-hop that inspired it, but this is all about pomp and melodrama. It's cabaret rather than NWA. Whereas trip-hop was often claustrophobic and gritty, Goldfrapp create a precise, cinematic and openly stylised sound. They're also wilfully odd.

Tonight starts with a guitar solo from a Fidel Castro lookalike apparently dressed as a lumberjack. The first encore includes the band's notorious cover of Olivia Newton-John's Let's Get Physical. The violinist is wearing Lederhosen, and is later joined by an expressionless man hitting a drum machine. A potted history of German popular culture? Probably not, but I wouldn't put it past them.

None of that proves Goldfrapp to be musically different, though. Will Gregory's endlessly inventive, menacing arrangements certainly impress, veering from solid rhythms and sweeping strings on Lovely Head to flotation-tank ambience on Paper Bag, but in the end it's that insane, teasing, somersaulting voice that drops jaws. Simply put, noises come out of Alison Goldfrapp that should never emerge from anyone.

'Are you human?' one of her best tracks wonders, and we might well ask her the same thing. She's stunning, but any suspicions that this is another pouting chart doll are shattered when she attacks the high phrases at the end of breakthrough single
Utopia
, spreading her arms like Pavarotti in a pie shop and marching to Gregory's relentless beats like the bride of Frankenstein. Be warned, boys; this isn't Kylie. It's Ute fucking Lemper.

(c) Nathan Midgley 2001

green wellies are so over
Goldfrapp
Shepherds Bush Empire
Tuesday 4th December

Nathan Midgley

There are no two ways about it: Alison Goldfrapp is a Singer. Not just a woman who can sing. A Singer. The music press might have been gushing over her Mercury-nominated debut Felt Mountain like Aunties over a newborn babe, but the thirty-year old ex-convent girl is no newcomer. Before hooking up with composer Will Gregory for her current project she provided distinctive backing vocals for some of the most respected acts around.

Critics have latched onto her appearance on Bristol rapper Tricky's cult classic Maxinquaye above all others, though, with the inevitable result that the words 'trip-hop' adorn every feature, review and interview bearing her name. A fine compliment if the term still referred to Massive Attack's moody dub or the wayward genius of Tricky himself, but surely a tad insulting now that it evokes little more than sub-Morcheeba Chill-Out Album fodder?

In fact, this is a totally different species of music. Trip-hop took an element of attitude from the hip-hop that inspired it, but this is all about pomp and melodrama. It's cabaret rather than NWA. Whereas trip-hop was often claustrophobic and gritty, Goldfrapp create a precise, cinematic and openly stylised sound. They're also wilfully odd.

Tonight starts with a guitar solo from a Fidel Castro lookalike apparently dressed as a lumberjack. The first encore includes the band's notorious cover of Olivia Newton-John's Let's Get Physical. The violinist is wearing Lederhosen, and is later joined by an expressionless man hitting a drum machine. A potted history of German popular culture? Probably not, but I wouldn't put it past them.

None of that proves Goldfrapp to be musically different, though. Will Gregory's endlessly inventive, menacing arrangements certainly impress, veering from solid rhythms and sweeping strings on Lovely Head to flotation-tank ambience on Paper Bag, but in the end it's that insane, teasing, somersaulting voice that drops jaws. Simply put, noises come out of Alison Goldfrapp that should never emerge from anyone.

'Are you human?' one of her best tracks wonders, and we might well ask her the same thing. She's stunning, but any suspicions that this is another pouting chart doll are shattered when she attacks the high phrases at the end of breakthrough single
Utopia
, spreading her arms like Pavarotti in a pie shop and marching to Gregory's relentless beats like the bride of Frankenstein. Be warned, boys; this isn't Kylie. It's Ute fucking Lemper.

(c) Nathan Midgley 2001

Alison Goldfrapp -- get upstairs to the bathroom,
right now!