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Alison Goldfrapp
The Love Invention Siobhan Kane , May 9th, 2023 09:29

For her first album sans-Will Gregory, Alison Goldfrapp is full of disco sparkle – but it's the more melancholy numbers where it gets interesting, finds Siobhán Kane

Alison Goldfrapp has talked of finding the beauty in the intense environs of a club, and this, her solo debut, is certainly aimed at the dancefloor. Created with co-producers Richard X and James Greenwood, there is obvious ambition in terms of the scale of the sound – but sometimes revealing a paucity of nuance.

“How do you see yourself?” she asks on the wheezy, bright-as-a-button ‘NeverStop’, filling a somewhat poppier space between Grace Jones and Róisín Murphy, yet conjuring their spirits nonetheless. Title track ‘Love Invention’ continues to push this colourful pop juggernaut with its exploration of “wellness” culture, and there are a few songs in this louder kind of vein – painted with the broader brushstrokes of disco and house, with varying degrees of success, such as on the slight ‘So Hard So Hot’ with its squelchy synths and obvious anthemic tone, and ‘Hotel (Suite 23)’ and its talk of “hotel won’t tell” duplicity. The messy thumping ‘Subterfuge’ mirrors the grimy generic disco of ‘Gatto Gelato’, which is at least elevated by her elegant vocal.

In truth it is Goldfrapp’s vocal that anchors this record, and things take a more interesting turn when the melancholy sets in (as is so often the way). Her voice has always lent itself to a more subtle, interrogating impulse, where she pulls at threads and ideas, twisting them, teasing them. It is there on ‘Digging Deeper Now’, with its glitchy moody soundscape – this is where she not only lives, but thrives – embodying a pleasing swagger, and a sense of personal freedom. ‘Fever’ has some of the album’s nicest and wonkiest beats, and ‘In Electric Blue’ is a weird electro ballad about loss. “I know it’s kind of crazy, but it’s true” she sings, persuading us. ‘The Beat Divine’ continues this pleasing weirdness, with its sideways, sloping, and crab-like approach, and Goldfrapp’s breathy vocal sounds imperious and in control – a compelling duality.

‘SLoFLo’ is a strange gem and an album highlight that sounds like Goldfrapp is truly slipping the skin of any previous incarnations or collaborations. It emerges unexpectedly, accompanied by a pared back grace that brings to mind James Blake. The song serves to remind us that sometimes less is not only more, but more interesting – there is a sweetness and delicacy which otherwise isn’t present on the record, and it provides a different, leavening, and more intriguing texture. With its gorgeous wash of sound, and a strange kind of beauty, it is perhaps a signpost to where Goldfrapp might go next.