Hazel Mills may not be a name immediately familiar to you but if you’ve been to a Goldfrapp or Florence + The Machine gig then chances are you will have seen Hazel on keyboards and backing vocals. I saw Goldfrapp last year at the Royal Festival Hall and was sitting on her side of the stage so got to see first-hand the incredible dexterity of her playing as well as her outstanding backing vocals.
‘Enclosure’ is the first track to be taken from forthcoming EP The Embrace, and it’s a welcome move from being a supporting player to becoming the main attraction. Hazel Mills says she draws from many influences including the pop of The Eurythmics and Kate Bush, the more experimental world of Steve Reich and Delia Derbyshire and “the soundscapes of Ryuichi Sakamoto”, someone whose recent death was deeply felt by musicians everywhere*.
You can feel the legacy of Japan/David Sylvian in the percussive bubbles that start the track as they bounce around like wood blocks and glass filtered through a circuit board. There are very few sharp edges to cut yourself on, just wonderful marshmallow bass lines which judder underneath gentle arpeggio breezes and backward sounds that swirl about Hazel’s voice as it moves effortlessly from half-breathed lines and understated tremolo to rising crescendos and seamless harmonies.
This really whets the appetite for the EP and, based on the strength of ‘Enclosure’, I hope this leads to Hazel Mills spending far more time centre stage.
If you want a deeper dive into Hazel Mills as a keyboardist and programmer then you can hear her talking in detail about her electronic life on the Podcast Why We Bleep and also see her set up for the recent Goldfrapp tour on the Goldfrapp Rig Tour Rundown
*I would highly recommend reading Adam Sweeting’s Ryuichi Sakamoto obituary in The Guardian.
Review by Paul F Cook