The British really did like a certain sound circa the turn of the millennium. It was one I was entirely oblivious to, living in rural Quebec, even though I had what was then an incredible internet connection. I suspect some of my radio station friends were into stuff like this, but I was honestly unaware.
But, 15-20 years later, I’ve discovered how common this type of sound truly was back then – a weird combination of trip hop production and classicist pop songwriting and performance. Sometimes labeled “downtempo”, sometimes (weirdly) labelled “indie pop” and a whole host of other terms, it appears to have been an actual movement, that doesn’t appear to have been named. (“Downtempo” is the closest, I guess, but there’s also pretty purely electronic stuff that gets lumped in there.) Who knew?
Goldfrapp are considerably more modern-sounding than some of their contemporaries. At least one of these other bands I’ve heard from this scene were really, really interested in reviving ’60s psychedelic pop through the lens of trip hop. And one thing I will give Goldfrapp is that they are not explicitly up to that.
Goldfrapp herself helps this by having a distinct voice and persona, that doesn’t cause my mind to recall other singers from, say, the ’60s. She’s got far more in common with the singers of the scene she emerged out of (trip hop).
The compositions are much more songs than most trip hop, though. There’s a persona singing them and they feel like they come from a specific voice, even if they are not particularly conventional in terms of structure.
The sound of the record is considerably more “organic” than trip hop. Sure, there is looping and editing, but there are also plenty of (unlooped) traditional instruments, which make the album pretty unique in the downtempo space, as far as I know.
It’s a pretty good record for this unnamed scene, as far as I can tell. It’s really heavy on mood, but that’s sort of the point of all of this. And there are enough strong melodies that it doesn’t feel like just a mood exercise.