What does Frou Frou sound like?
Intelligent synth-based alt-pop from the early 2000s.
The review of Frou Frou – Off Cuts
It has been 20 years since Imogen Heap and Guy Sigworth released their only album as Frou Frou. “Details” was a fantastic album and as someone who was on the Immi bandwagon from her debut, it marked a transition from being a heavy piano goth into the electronica maestro she is known as today. To celebrate the 20th anniversary, Frou Frou has unearthed six demos and released the EP “Off Cuts” to give an insight into songs abandoned and the early creation process.
Whilst these six tracks have been cleaned up and feel like finished articles, they are all titled as demos. They still offer more dynamism and range than many current artists’ most complex works which I think is a testament to Frou Frou’s complexity. Whilst drums open appear outwardly on a couple of songs, what is here is the amazing synth work and Imogen’s vocals. “Deal With It” opens the EP with gentle skittish hazy pads that build up to a crescendo with Imogen’s vocals rising up octaves. Evoking some of Imogen Heap’s b-sides and a bit of Bjork’s Vespertine, it is a lovely opener. “A New Kind Of Love” is instant single material with a loose beat and a mixture of synths, electric piano and thick rubbery basslines. It has some great lyrics too that showcase the duos’ ability to pull random English catchphrases into their music.
After two tracks that layer lots of vocal adlibs and synths, “Guitar Song” is the most simple and tranquil piece. A simple guitar riff and Imogen’s voice play a light dreamy ballad over a background of public noise. Again, it feels like a prelude to some of the future work Heap would go onto with Ellipse. The shimmering glowing pop of “Sane Again” straddles pop and electronica with glee. Its uptempo bombastic nature rhythmically and sonically is juxtaposed with some of the softer and glided vocals of the selection. The EP then ends with two more character-driven tracks. “Good Guy” plays with kookie watery vocal fried filters and jazzy chord progressions in the chorus whilst “Peeping Tom” uses a Bond-ish chord progression. It also uses a synth string that emulates the kind of string arrangement Frou Frou would go on to use with “Psychobabble”. One thing that really stood out in these demos is just how much work went into the vocal adlib layering of their tracks. It’s like a mosaic of Heap’s voice constantly peppered over the synths and it still feels fresh and impressive all these years later.
The six tracks are all very playable and only offer more joy to Frou Frou fans who haven’t had anything from the duo in almost 20 years. Whilst some of demos have what sounds like placement midi instruments for say real guitar elements, it lends itself well to that early 2000 era of alt-pop. “Off Cuts” whets the appetite for a future Frou Frou release and whilst there doesn’t appear to be one on the horizon, it is lovely to have more to appreciate. Thanks to Guy and Imogen for unearthing these gems and polishing them up for release.
Recommended track: A New Kind of Love
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