GOLDFRAPP with BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Saturday (May 5). $15. 416-532-1598.
Let's see, melodramatic ballads presented in cinemascope grandeur by a press-shy chanteuse and her John Berry-worshipping sidekick from out Bristol way.... No, it isn't Portishead, it's Goldfrapp. For all the striking similarities, there's a fundamental difference between their approaches to the brooding-chick-singer-with-soundtracky-music concept.
Unlike Portishead, Goldfrapp are not a product of hiphop's sampling culture, instead adhering more closely to the whole film-score aesthetic of sonic mood manipulation. For a soundtrack-schooled composer like Will Gregory (who scored the popular Brit soccer hooligan flick ID), the Goldfrapp sound has less to do with beats and grooves than with tempo, texture and tension.
In spite of whatever singer Alison Goldfrapp might be mumbling about slippery cherries and sun-sucking baboons, the richly orchestrated backing tracks of their Felt Mountain (Mute) debut are stunningly beautiful.
"Portishead base everything they do on DJ culture because they understand hiphop. We don't," explains Gregory from his hideaway in the Wiltshire countryside."At the beginning, Alison and I decided against using beats, loops or samples at any stage because it wouldn't be true to us. If we need the sound of a string section, we'll write the music and bring in an orchestra to play it."
Gregory didn't think twice about hiring a 35-piece brass section to create the vibe he envisioned for the track Oompa Radar. The results are spectacular, although exactly how they'd stage their elaborately constructed Felt Mountain was something Gregory hadn't thought all the way through when he tossed in all those fancy harpsichord bits.
"Making the album was like living out a fantasy. We had all the time we needed, without any hassle from the record company. There was a budget, but we went over it.
"This bloke with a clipboard came by saying, Hmm, a brass band, harpsichord, Japanese koto -- how do you propose to perform this music?' It suddenly hit me, like, Oh, god, why did we use all that?'
"The only way I could see us doing shows without radically altering the music was to use a bit of tape with a cast of thousands to embellish what we do live with drums, violin and keyboards. Alison, of course, is a brilliant performer, so it's all working out quite well."