Can You Dance to Whispers?
Goldfrapp’s new album, titled Silver Eye, is a work of impressionism. The tracks are evocative of many textures and of things come before, while still holding their own as original works. Lyricism here is faded and buffed around the edges to blend with enveloping sound design and grounding, driving bass. The album is bookended interestingly by tracks with an ’80s dance vibe — like the perhaps aptly titled “Systemagic” — that somehow still maintain their indie cache, while in between these is a consistent tracklist of meditative songs with artfully ambiguous diction.
The texture of several tracks is given a foundation of droning synths across multiple registers which blends seamlessly with strong basslines and vocal whispers. Harmony is minimal except where it adds to this texture and the dominant voice on the album is feminine, though some masculine voices make appearances and are even centered on “Become the One.” Other tracks’ vocals sit squarely in the feminine head voice and use a combination of short, discrete poetics and longer melismatic phrases to create the supple ambience suggested in one track’s title: “Faux Suede Drifter.” The album as a whole and its listening experience is one of drifting, of elements that come and go and of lyrics that slip by on a first listen and lodge in your brain hours later.
The running-together of powerfully-delivered words that makes the soundscape so cohesive is a major feature of this album. However, occasionally a track will break the pattern, like the closer “Ocean,” which showcases a luxurious alto lead with slightly more pointed diction and skillful use of vocal fry. Despite the heavily blended aesthetic of the album, which can make the lyrics somewhat of an excavation project, a few tracks have catching refrains or motifs that unearth in listeners previously forgotten or much-loved associations. For example, the aforementioned song, “Become the One,” begets memories of “Age of Aquarius,” and is coincidentally followed a few tracks later by “Zodiac Black.” This is music to dance to, but in slow motion, as if someone is fading out on the indie film that tells the story that brought you here, listening to Silver Eye.