Friday, September 11, 2015

felt mountain

Goldfrapp wanted our minds with the utopian magic hour murmurs of this deliciously wired electronic cabaret.   As a child, Alison Goldfrapp sang in the choir at the Alton Convent School before being expelled for her grades.  She moved to London at the age of sixteen and then went on to study art at Middlesex University:   "They taught me that it doesn't matter whether you have any money - 'the idea' is everything. Also, that I could do music, and that it didn't have to be pop."

She did some musical theatre work before doing guest vocals on various projects, including Orbital's  "Are We Here" from Snivilisation, Add N to (X)'s "Revenge of the Black Regent" from Avant Hard,  Bryan Ferry's "San Simeon" from Franticand Tricky's "Pumpkin" from Maxinquaye.   Goldrapp reveals:   "It took two years for me to get my head back to what I wanted.  Things were complex because I was good friends with Martina, who I effectively replaced. It was highly acrimonious between those two and I was in the middle. I mean, I like Tricky. As much as he's a fucking nightmare. Offensive? He's totally offensive! But I can give it back.  His best stuff was done in his living room.  I'd be standing in the hallway with one working headphone while he went out for chips. When he came back, the track was done." 

It was around this time that she connected with Will Gregory (who had worked with numerous artists including Tears For Fears,  Tori Amos,   Peter Gabriel,  and  Portishead).   Gregory remembers:   "We both had been in music doing various things, as you do trying to earn your living as a musician. It seems like you have to be flexible, to say, at the very least. Looking back on it, I guess you could say that we'd come to a point in our lives, respectively, where we felt we needed to just stop doing all those little things that feel like a compromise, and try and do something that feels like it's really what you want to do. But at the time, I think it was just that I heard her voice. I heard her singing on a very early version of a song that later became "Human," and it sounded great. I just thought, "This is someone I'd really like to meet. Wherever she is, I want to be there too - because I feel like I already am." I just felt that there was a connection there...I think that, having done a lot of writing for TV and film and stuff, you begin to realize that, OK it's fun, the idea that you're a chameleon - that you can put on any fancy dress music pastiche costume - but actually, what's more interesting is finding your own voice, your own style. I got to a point where I think I'd found that, to some extent, and I wasn't usually allowed to do it, because it wasn't appropriate to the project. But when I heard Allison, I thought, "That really is appropriate," because wherever I am, I imagine that she can be there too...After that, we spoke a lot on the phone and we also sent each other -- because, at the time, I lived in Bath and she lived in London - compilation cassettes of our favorite tracks, just to see where our heads were...I've not had much experience working [with other people]. It was intense. That's all I can really tell you. I think that the first thing we wrote was "Lovely Head," and that was lucky in a way because we were really pleased with it. We wanted to continue in that vein, and that set a kind of benchmark. And the next track we wrote was "Horse Tears," and that set another kind of direction up - the kind of slow space that we really enjoy - that intensity. So between those two, we really kind of covered the gamut, and they ended up being the first and last track on the album, but they were actually the first two things we wrote. I think that that was lucky for us, because it meant that we had a standard, and we had a benchmark and we knew that, if we'd written tracks as good as that - we felt they were good - then we had our work cut out. After that, it was sometimes harder, because we were trying to recapture that direction." 

'Felt Mountain' was recorded over six months starting in September of 1999 in the solitude of a rented cottage in the countryside of Wiltshire.   Goldfrapp considers:   "It was mad and I wouldn't do it again," she says. "My social and private life collapsed. Because it was a bungalow, it felt really vulnerable. Big windows. Mice in the roof. I like extremes but, at the end of that six months, I really did feel I was going bonkers. I remember spending three days in a raincoat, scrubbing the side of the bungalow because there were all these spiders hatching. I became obsessive about the wildlife I thought was taking over the bungalow. It was disgusting, moths everywhere. You could hear the mice scuttling across the roof."

Gregory and Goldfrapp produced the sessions together.  Gregory says:   "All I can really tell you is that we both write the music together, and Alison writes the lyrics. How we get there, I don't really know. We haven't found a formula for doing it. I think that's probably a good thing ... I think that it's interesting having counterpoint. I don't write the lyrics, so I'm not fully qualified to talk about them. What I will say is that I think we tend to go with the emotion rather than the kind of politics. And I think that the emotion behind the idea that we are potentially in control, scientifically, of creating how we're going to be in the future - we're moving into a position where we can play God to a pretty extreme extent - has an emotional significance. And then you imagine some futuristic alien human being that's been the product of all this genetic whats-it. What's going through their mind? That can be a very torturous, sad place to be, I suppose. So that creates a certain drama straight away, even though it's quite comical at the same time. "

Goldfrapp says their process involves delving deeper:   "What is the scenario behind this song? What are the emotions?... ['Felt Mountain' evokes a] total loneliness where something horrible is happening...It's sort of beautifully macabre.  I love all that David Lynch, Midwich Cuckoos thing. But it isn't cinema. It's real."

'Felt Mountain' climbed to number ninety-eight in Switzerland, fifty-seven in the UK, forty-eight in France,  forty-four in Australia and Austria,  and thirty-six in Germany.  In the UK, it was nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize. 




"Lovely Head"

'Felt Mountain'  full album:

All songs written and composed by Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory, except where noted. 

1. "Lovely Head"   3:49
2. "Paper Bag"   4:05
3. "Human" (Tim Norfolk, Bob Locke, Goldfrapp, Gregory) 4:36
4. "Pilots"   4:29
5. "Deer Stop"   4:06
6. "Felt Mountain"   4:17
7. "Oompa Radar"   4:42
8. "Utopia"   4:18
9. "Horse Tears"   5:10


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