Alison Goldfrapp Dials Up Her Own Disco Fantasy

For nearly 25 years, the name Goldfrapp has represented the musical partnership between the singer Alison Goldfrapp and the keyboardist and producer Will Gregory.

The duo recorded seven stylistically varied studio albums that drifted from trip-hop to glam rock to disco to indie to folk, sometimes crossing back, with a common thread: the airy-yet-hearty multi-octave voice of its namesake. Aside from some early shows, Gregory didn’t tour with the group, operating so far out of public view that he joked about being paranoid that people didn’t know he existed.

But for Goldfrapp, going it alone for the first time — at age 56 — “feels very different,” she said from behind round sunglasses in a video interview. She was speaking from her London home as she prepared for the release of her debut solo album, “The Love Invention,” out May 12. The music sounds different, too, teeming with maximalist, ecstatic club bangers crafted with the help of Richard X (Erasure, Róisín Murphy) and James Greenwood (Daniel Avery, Kelly Lee Owens).

“I don’t think maybe I had the confidence to go and do something on my own,” Goldfrapp said in a second conversation via phone from a vacation in Spain. “Maybe I didn’t think I could.” (Her group, she clarified, has not disbanded.)

Resisting self-mythology, Goldfrapp was more inclined to chalk her solo era up to a confluence of circumstances. Maybe most crucial is that she had the time: After the release of “Silver Eye,” the group’s last album, in 2017, and a subsequent tour, Goldfrapp decided to “check out for a bit” in a self-imposed musical sabbatical. Also, she explained, “Silver Eye” “had a kind of seriousness to it, and a sort of darkness” that she wanted to offset when her musical itch finally returned, just before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

“The Love Invention” is an ebullient collection of 11 songs focusing on ‌‌pulse, both of the cardiac and club varieties. Its ethos can be boiled down to a line Goldfrapp purrs on “The Beat Divine” over a walloping sleaze-disco throwback: “Only love can make the beat divine.”

The album does not so much rewrite the book on women singing over four-on-the-floor rhythms (pop music’s chocolate and peanut butter) as turn in an immaculate draft on its sonic ideals. Its exuberance is unfettered and its low end is uncommonly deep for an album driven by a star vocalist. Though love is the message, Goldfrapp laces the euphoria with social commentary and life experience: “Fever” plays like an ode (“You are the one thing here/I really need/We are the fever now/This is the real thing”) though it was partly inspired by climate change, and the title track, which imagines a supreme dopamine rush from a doctor’s magical concoction, was inspired in part by her use of hormone replacement therapy for menopause.

Goldfrapp traced her love of dance music to her youth. While enrolled at Alton Convent School in Hampshire, England, she sang in the choir, and in her early teens, she listened to disco and dressed like a punk, a look she said was “really unfashionable.”

To manifest her clubby destiny, she turned to the seasoned Richard X, who has been making dance music for more than 20‌‌ years and contributed to the 2010 Goldfrapp album “Head First,” ‌and she made a conscious decision to refrain from using acoustic instruments on the ‌LP. Instead of the dance divas that one might expect had a hand in informing “The Love Invention” — like Robyn, or Róisín Murphy — Goldfrapp cited the musician Kelela, post-punk, Italo disco and bossa nova as inspirations.

She doesn’t get out to many clubs these days, though she did visit Berlin’s infamous Berghain while on tour, which she said was “a bit scary, but I kind of loved it.” So while “The Love Invention” hasn’t been tested in a big room, “it’s my fantasy of it,” ‌Goldfrapp said while beaming. The album’s loved-up themes create a double fantasy, a “craving,” she said, for euphoria rather than memoirist reportage. (She cautioned against reading the LP as an ode to her current relationship, with the architect Peter Culley.)

“The Love Invention” is not a quarantine album‌‌, but its roots can be traced to deep lockdown, when Goldfrapp began a collaboration with the Norwegian duo Röyksopp that resulted in two songs on ‌‌its “Profound Mysteries” album trilogy. Goldfrapp said she had emailed the duo because she thought working with new people would be fun and was heartened to receive a reply (other producers she contacted had “completely ignored” her). The group’s receptiveness to collaboration inspired her to install a studio in her home, ‌‌in which she would record much of “The Love Invention.”

In a video interview, Svein Berge of Röyksopp said that Goldfrapp’s “inquisitive nature” and the unique “signature” of her voice made the group keen to work with her. “She has the chameleon aspect,” he said of her versatility, adding, “There is no ego,” simply “a mutual understanding that we want the output to be as good as it can be.”

Goldfrapp’s influence over the past decade has been powerful, if often underacknowledged. If everyone who heard the Velvet Underground went on to form a band, a good portion of Goldfrapp’s audience in the aughts threw away their pants, donned leotards and made stompy electro-pop. (Some admirers kept their pants on: “I got very into Goldfrapp again,” Adele told Zoe Ball on BBC Radio in 2021, adding she couldn’t pull off “what Alison is the absolute queen of.”)

Goldfrapp slinked onto the music scene with “Felt Mountain” in 2000, a Mercury Prize-nominated album that made no secret of its members’ trip-hop histories. (Goldfrapp had sung on Tricky’s debut, “Maxinquaye,” while Gregory played oboe and baritone sax with Portishead.) The tempos picked up on “Black Cherry,” from 2003, and again two years later on “Supernature,” which spawned the group’s highest-peaking single on the British charts, “Ooh La La.” It was eventually featured in a 2013 iPhone commercial; the group’s “Strict Machine” earlier appeared in a Verizon Wireless ad.

With “Supernature,” the duo charted on the Billboard 200 for the first time, and its “slightly shy” and “a bit introspective” face, as Goldfrapp described herself, struggled with the attention. (She gets nervous during interviews, and she fidgeted with her wavy blond hair or the neckline of her black shirt during our video chat.) But she also noticed when that attention waned — she remembered having to be told “bluntly” that one of her records wasn’t selling too well when she inquired about a gig her group didn’t get.

Now, Goldfrapp said, she is “very realistic about my position in the music industry,” which means having a fan base that is both “very strong” and “quite small.” “It’s not like I’m just at the beginning of my career and like, ‘Ooh, where’s it going to go?’” she said with sarcastic glee.

She has resolved to ignore the music industry’s notorious ageism, and said that, at 56, she is more comfortable in her own skin than ever. “You do have to have a certain confidence to go, ‘Actually know what? I’m going to feel good about doing this,” she said.

And feel good she does. “It feels all sort of very new and fresh to me, which is a great feeling,” she said of her solo album. And if it should yield a hit single or two, that’s all the better. “I mean, hey, who doesn’t want a hit?”

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