Seventh Tree (Mute)
On their last two albums, 2003's Black Cherry and 2005's Supernature, the duo of Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory—known together under her surname—achieved the uncommon feat of making dance music that didn't require its listeners to stop thinking. Their latest, Seventh Tree, keeps the musical intelligence, but lets the disco ball shine elsewhere.
It’s not a bad thing that Goldfrapp and Gregory replace that light with what feels like sunshine, albeit the sort of English sunshine that is all too soon covered by rain clouds. Beneath that graying sky, a song like "Clowns" moves in pastoral fashion, although the meadow in which it reposes also has room for a good-sized string section.
Nor does Seventh Tree entirely forsake machine beats; it simply programs those beats to relax. Even a track like "A&E," with its modern burnish of dots and loops, is a breezy stroll rather than a driven shimmy. And Goldfrapp's voice—deceptively soft and fragile, as cool as Serge Gainsbourg but also as heartfelt as Sandy Denny—suits this pace as much as it did the glittering intensity of Supernature.
Seventh Tree does look toward the urban evening with the late-1970s funk of "Cologne Cerrone Houdini" and the ELO elaborateness of "Caravan Girl," but its mood never really leaves the soft grass and languor of a spring afternoon. This is the Sunday after Goldfrapp's prolonged Friday and Saturday.