Soon after touring their last album, Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory reconvened at their Bristol studio, hungry to get to work on album six of their discography. Earlier than they thought, Goldfrapp were ready to conjoin minds and make music again. Alison has found, after considerable professional and personal research into the matter, that when she is at her happiest she can allow herself to go deep into a world of fantasy. “When you’re relaxed and confident you can excavate places you may not have dared go before”, she says. It is with some inevitability, then, not just that Tales of Us, her new full studio album with musical confidante and co-creator Will Gregory, has taken a turn for the noir but that Alison herself is on such fiery good form.
The aural lineage of the record is the dreamy, acoustic, David Lynch-like flavour of Goldfrapp’s opening set, Felt Mountain, and their defining mid-period masterwork, Seventh Tree. Like Beck and Nick Cave before them, there has always been an almost schizophrenic split in the sound palette of Goldfrapp: on the one hand the compulsive rhythms that stomped through hits ‘Strict Machine’ and ‘Ooh La La’, indebted to a fetishistic mid-European disco thud and the dress-up fantasia of glam-rock. Tales of Us is part of the flip side of that coin. “I'm drawn more and more to the intimacy and simplicity of the voice & guitar.”
Nothing in their back catalogue has hinted at the new lyrical breadth Alison has introduced to Tales of Us. All the songs bar one, the haunting ‘Stranger’, are named in the first person. The cast list of sensuous character sketches, the contrary love affairs, the suspense, hallucinations, fairy tales and modern folklores documented and the traces of redemption they find in song take the poetry of Goldfrapp’s delicately considered pop music somewhere new. “I am interested in horror, psychologically. Not blood and guts. That’s too literal. I like the horror of the mind.”
There is a reason Goldfrapp have used the inclusive pronoun in the title. The album is not really third person at all. It is all about her and Will’s emotional response to some uniquely affecting tales; perhaps even of the quiet storm approaching in all of us.