Lately, I’ve been finding myself increasingly bored by many of the
albums that have come across my desk while I sit
patiently, awaiting the release of Radiohead's Kid A. My fevered anticipation of what will
(arguably) be the biggest release of the year has led me to become rather
dispassionate about several other releases that, under different
circumstances, would have most certainly logged many an hour in my disc
changer. That changed when Felt Mountain found its way
into my sweaty little hands -- thoughts of Yorke & Co. unexpectedly
diminished as I found myself lost in the land of Goldfrapp.
You might not know it, but you’ve probably heard Allison Goldfrapp's siren-like vocals before. She has contributed her impressive singing skills to a host of albums -- most notably Tricky’s trip-hop opus
Maxinquaye and Orbital’s seminal Snivilisation and Middle of
Nowhere albums. Felt Mountain finds
the sultry songstress working under her own name, joining forces with composer Will Gregory to
create a truly captivating album.
Felt Mountain's impossibly graceful opener (and first single) "Lovely Head"
wraps Goldfrapp’s breathy falsetto around a velveteen groove and
otherworldly synth belches, establishing the tone for the remainder of
the record. "Human" brings Bjork to mind, with Goldfrapp’s heavily
enunciated vocal gymnastics hovering over Gregory’s bed of synthesized
strings and electrocuted bossa-nova beats. And one simply cannot forget
the dolorous carnival atmospherics and shimmering brass of "Oompa
As if that wasn't enough, you’ll also find Bond
themes in waiting ("Horse Tears"), a dollop of icy liquid funk ("Felt
Mountain") and a celestial exercise in trip-hop ("Deer Stop") that makes
Portishead look like a pair of talentless tossers. Every track
is a winner, and each employs a different technique to draw the listener
into its musical web. This is what Stereolab must think they sound
The only thing wrong with Felt Mountain is its
length. The nine songs clock in at just less than 40 minutes, leaving
the listener feeling cheated. It's like sitting
through a two hour movie, only to have the projector fizzle out during
the final 10 minutes, leaving you amazed at what you saw, but frustrated by
the lack of a conclusive denoument.
Nonetheless, Felt Mountain stands as one of the most triumphant releases of the year. It's also the only album besides the new GYBE! that has managed to pull my mind
out of the Radiohead gutter. Whether it will retain that
rare ability after the official release of Kid A remains to be seen.