The Golden Filter’s “Voluspa”
Meet Penelope Trappes, a singer who uses her breathy, ethereal voice to lull minds to otherworldly environments (mostly mythical), and her counterpart, Stephen Hindman, a disco and analogue synth programmer who’s putting together some light mechanical blips, snares, and keyboard goodies. Together these two are The Golden Filter, an electropop (to nu-disco feeling) duo from New York City. Before listening to the album, […]Victoria Phetmisy
out of 10
The Golden Filter
April 26, 2010
Meet Penelope Trappes, a singer who uses her breathy, ethereal voice to lull minds to otherworldly environments (mostly mythical), and her counterpart, Stephen Hindman, a disco and analogue synth programmer who’s putting together some light mechanical blips, snares, and keyboard goodies. Together these two are The Golden Filter, an electropop (to nu-disco feeling) duo from New York City.
Before listening to the album, I had already pre-judged it.
1. The album art: Everyone knows the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” right? Well, I’m assuming the same goes for cover art. The first thought that came to my mind when I saw the cover art for Voluspa was, ‘Oooh, mysterious and simple enough to keep my attention…also, what is that…red thing?’ It reminded me of Bonobo’s Day to Come cover—an album I was visually attracted to and also ended up really enjoying. The connection made me think great things right off the bat.
2. The song “Solid Gold,” which appeared on a mixtape made for me (back when the year was 2009) by someone whose music taste I trust. The song was catchy even though the lyrics weren’t that creative—I mean, she uses the word “golden” in every line leading up to the chorus (that’s eight times). It isn’t even that noticeable because it just sounds like a fairytale, which is appropriate for Trappe’s unearthly voice. So because this song appears as track nine on Voluspa I was even more intrigued.
3. Cut Copy, Little Boots, Empire of the Sun, and Peter Bjorn and John. Before I knew The Golden Filter as making their own music I heard them through some amazing remixes of songs from the aforementioned. Their remix of Cut Copy’s “Far Away” is so catchy that the CD (Yes, I still use physical media) I had it on sadly expired due to an overdose of plays. These remixes were fun and showed their nu-disco flavour—a little dance-y, a little airy, and a lot catchy.
So before even getting Voluspa to my eardrums I was already expecting it to be good. And it’s not to say it isn’t, but it’s definitely not what I was expecting.
The album opens boldly with the track “Dance Around a Fire,” where a violin, spewing flavours of the Eastern hemisphere, take you on a very slow rise to an upbeat climax of strings, tambourines, and drums. It’s a nice opener, though surprisingly less showy than I anticipated. Trappes voice drifting through the words “Dance around a fire” had me feeling like I was partaking in a smoky rites of passage ceremony.
Then right at the drop, we are launched into “Hide Me,” which sounds very similar—it’s catchy, but soft. The repetitious lyrics, sung by Trappes wraithlike voice, and the simplistic bass line makes me feel like I’m waiting on the edge of my seat for a huge explosion of noise, but it doesn’t come.
The more the album progresses, it doesn’t seem to actually progress. All the songs are mellow, soft, ghostly and similar to the one before it. I hate to nutshell it this way, but if I went through to describe the track the descriptions would all sound vaguely familiar.
Each track has Trappe’s hauntingly pretty voice singing above a straightforward bass line, treble of drum beats, and very soft, often echoing sounds of Hindman’s talent for synth programming. It’s good, and very subtle and eerie, yet gets a little stale after each song continues to have the predictable waves of noise.
“Solid Gold” was still as good as I remember it, and now on this album, it stands out even more. There’s something dancier about it that caught my attention as I waded through the fields of myths and magic, which seems to be the common thread between each track.
As the end of Voluspa disappeared into the fog, I realized I felt a little underwhelmed with the journey. The songs were simple and pretty—to say the least, but at the heart of each, I felt that something was missing.
Last track, “Thunderbird,” released as a single in 2009, was a nice reminder that there’s still that disco essence that I definitely craved. The track is upbeat, has handclaps (who doesn’t love that?), and even reminds me a little bit of Madonna’s “Vogue”—a really great way to close the album and leave on a buoyant note.
After listening to Voluspa I found myself feeling nostalgic for The Neverending Story and its soundtrack—the 80s synthesizers, airy vocals, dance-y upbeat tempos—and knew that my expectations weren’t met. Overall, the album is great for the background—put it on when you’re in need of a dream-filled slumber or studying mythology, deities, and all things mystical. For the every day listen, this may not be the album.
Voluspa is one of those albums that all the tracks, though they work well together, would work even greater if each was taken apart and listened to individually so that they don’t accidentally render each other forgettable, similar, or familiar.