Eight years ago, you might have come across Penelope Trappes and Stephen Hindman's music as The Golden Filter on an indie electro blog like Hype Machine. The duo first emerged with starry-eyed remixes for Little Boots and Cut Copy. Their breakout track, the nu-disco "Solid Gold," from their 2010 debut, Voluspa, showed just how magnetizing the duo's sound could be. It had whimsy, glimmering pop hooks and a bit of Italo cheese—the result of Trappes' singing and Hindman's throwback synthesizer work. Their latest album, Still // Alone, released on Optimo Music, goes for something a bit more art-house.
The album has two sections: Still, which is comprised of dance floor material, and Alone, a string of broody synth pop tracks. (A beatless sketch, "//," divides the two.) Since Voluspa, the duo have cut the frills from their sound—there are no swelling disco strings, no cosmic synth riffs. Trappes' vocals have become more of a texture than a lead. What remains is raw, minimalistic and throbbing machinery, which takes command on the house and techno-inspired first half of the album. On Still, sharp arpeggios and gridlocked rhythms create music that's variously lustful ("We Are The Music"), frenzied ("Vibrational") and gleaming (the quirky techno of "Nine"). But the most exciting work on this side—if not the album—is "Now We Get Lost." The arrangement is sparse, but each element has an arresting glow: Trappes' coos, the warm arpeggios and the golden synth rays that usher in the track's peak.
On Alone, Trappes's voice—sometimes dramatic, sometimes dainty—reclaims center stage. On "Questions," whispers add soft streaks to the track's slow, distorted backdrop. "Dust," a stretch of dark and voluptuous synthwave, tells the story of a broken-hearted lover on the run. By comparison, "There Is No Love Between Us" and "Rivers" are much more upbeat affairs. Their bouncy grooves and sparkling quality hark back to The Golden Filter's early days, though their style is more pared down. That's not to say the duo has shed their accessible sound. Still // Alone presents a more refined version of The Golden Filter. But, whether they make pop or dance music, their songs charm because they're catchy.
Tracklist01. We Are The Music
03. Now We Get Lost
08. There Is No Love Between Us