The Brooding Pop Outsiders Return with a Cinematic Music Video Premiere
A young, androgynous boy explores his femininity through a hoard of trinkets hidden in the undergrowth in the accompanying video to “Annabel,” a brand new track from Goldfrapp. For their sixth album Tales Of Us, Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory have stepped back from the electronic synth pop with which they made their name. “I like electronic sounds because of the iciness, but I find them quite awkward,” says Goldfrapp. “Acoustic instruments have a warmth and sensuality about them.” Each song on Tales Of Us is named after a different person and the album sees Goldfrapp's voice—at one moment rich, the next fragile—paired with understated guitar and strings. The intended effect is to allow the characters and narratives to breathe, which is most eloquently achieved in “Annabel,” inspired by Kathleen Winter's 2010 novel of the same name which follows a hermaphrodite child who is forced into taking on a male identity in 1960s Canada. Today’s short film was shot by Alison Goldfrapp’s partner Lisa Gunning, who worked as Editor on Sam Taylor-Johnson’s Nowhere Boy and here transposes the “endless winters” of the song’s lyrics to a warm English summer. To accentuate the film's narrative, the actual music itself doesn’t appear until just shy of the three-minute mark, a defiant move in an age of fast-cuts intended to grab attention on YouTube. “I don't really like the whole idea of videos,” says the singer. "Even though I know I've done bloody loads of them, haven’t I?"
So why the decision to make these short films?
Alison Goldfrapp: I think the whole idea of the video has changed—what it does, what it’s for—and that’s been great because it’s opened things up. Lisa knows my aesthetic and I trust her. It’s the first time I feel that we’ve made something that really complements the music—I don’t think I’ve really felt like that before about video.
How does the film relate to both the song “Annabel” and the book that inspired it?
AG: I read Annabel and was totally drawn into that world, and immediately wrote the song. It’s very much about my interpretation of the book. If anyone hears that song they’ll just think it’s about a girl, they won't know what it is about, so I was very intent on making the film. The boy is amazing, he’s got a stillness and a melancholy to his face, and an introverted quality about him.
Are the themes explored in “Annabel” present in the rest of the album?
AG: It’s very much about memory, identity and gender. I’ve always been fascinated by dual creatures, personas, people, personalities, and transformation. I think it’s a theme that’s pretty much always in fairy tales and horror, which I love. What struck me about Annabel is that the parents are in total denial of what their child is: this child has to choose in the end, and that’s what society is making them do. Why can't you be both? I feel really strongly about that whole concept in so many things in life. All the characters in these songs are trying to figure out who they are, where they're going, and why they are who they are.
Tales of Us is out September 9 on Mute.
Crystallizing the Creative Harmony at the Heart of China's Urban Explosion
“Everyone is trying to find that new Chinese voice,” muses architect Lyndon Neri in this meditative documentary by director Thomas Rhazi. China Now spotlights the fertile state of creativity in the world’s most populous country, through interviews with luminaries of Chinese art, publishing and architecture. Neri appears with his wife and professional partner, Rosanna Hu, alongside Jérôme Sans, co-founder of Beijing consultancy Perfect Crossovers and former Director of the city’s Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, and Shaway Yeh, the Group Style Editorial Director of Modern Media Group whose flagship title, Modern Weekly, boasts a wider circulation than the Chinese edition of Vogue. Shot in Shanghai and Beijing, the smoggy skies and steel-and-glass skyscrapers articulate the enormous scale and rapid pace of China’s development, yet the architecture picked out here offers a sanctuary amidst the confusion. For Neri & Hu’s award-winning boutique hotel The Waterhouse, the architects embrace the public nature of traditional Shanghai lane houses, while collective living is a feature of the Ai Weiwei-designed Caochangdi village in Beijing, where a thriving hub of artists live and work alongside farmers and migrant workers. Yet despite the country’s budding energy and certain creative freedoms, China itself is unknowable for the artist, according to Yeh. “It’s a place that’s still in flux,” she says during today’s short. “It’s constantly reshaping.”
A Private Tour of Beatrix Ost and Ludwig Kuttner's Avant-Garde Country Paradise
Stretching across 500 acres of Charlottesville, Virginia, is Estouteville, a 19th century Edwardian ranch and home to arts patrons and textile entrepreneurs Beatrix Ost and Ludwig Kuttner. An artist, writer and theater producer, the German-born Ost, together with her philanthropist partner Kuttner, discovered the idyllic estate in 1982, when she swung a pendulum over a map of the East Coast which led her to Albemarle County. “There are endless treehouses, sculptures, and art pieces made by other people on the property,” says today's filmmaker Columbine Goldsmith. “They live a life that is very community-based and focused on encouraging the talents of the people around them.” Ost’s idiosyncratic personal style and snow white, purple-tinted hair have earned her a cover of the New York Times Magazine and editorials for Harper’s Bazaar, while Kuttner is the unlikely gourmand, using the grand scale of their private playground to grow local produce. “We really followed them around on what is more or less a normal day,” adds Goldsmith, who was joined by the couple’s granddaughter, Eva, as the family explored the nearby lily pond, with its very own resident snake. “Every part of the farm is a seamless fusion of wild eccentricity and homely life.”