Let the Golden Age Begin
After spending the last year and change building up considerable buzz in the blogosphere, The Golden Filter have finally released their full-length debut album, Voluspa. With all of the well-received singles and high profile remixes (Cut Copy, Peter Bjorn & John) they’ve released up to this point – not to mention the painstaking efforts that members Penelope Trappes and Stephen Hindman initially went through to mock up their own sense of mystery – expectations were undeniably, almost impossibly high for them to stick the landing. Fortunately, despite brief moments of wobble, Voluspa is an often inviting, if not always inventive, mission statement for the band that suggests The Golden Filter have plenty of sparkle left to spare.
The Filter have often cited Saint Etienne and Pink Floyd in interviews and press materials as their primary musical influences. The former can be heard in Trappes’s airy, alluring vocal delivery. The latter comes in via the lyrics (cryptic and mythic at equal turns) and Hindman’s sprawling synth patterns and rhythm arrangements. Opener “Dance Around the Fire” sets the tone. Preceded by a piercing string refrain, Trappes uses her voice to conjure up dance as some kind of bacchanal ritual. Hindman gradually layers the strings behind her with handclaps, rubbery bass and an insistent, synthesized arpeggio until everything comes together and bursts into a howling climax that seems to start the very fire listeners are expected to gather around. It’s a promising start.
That flame can’t be sustained at quite that heat or intensity for the full album, even if it rarely flickers. The pair was wise to space their singles throughout the album, as all remain standouts that maintain the momentum. “Hide Me” is another cleverly constructed slice of icy-hot disco, capturing the kind of seductive aloofness that people keep wanting Goldfrapp to find again, and “Solid Gold,” their original introduction to the world at large, maintains its pulsing purity over a year later. The commanding, would-be dance floor banger “Thunderbird” works even better as the final number here, its combination of live and programmed beats and Trappes’s spoken word duet with her own ethereal cooing making for a fierce and frenzied finale.
Only two other songs come close to touching these highs: “Frejya’s Ghost” renders Saint Etienne’s sunny percolation slinkier and more nocturnal to pleasing, single-worthy effect. Meanwhile, the mammoth “Stardust” struts to an epic, Goblin-esque instrumental crescendo only to gracefully retreat back into itself like a musical moebius strip. The remains range from pleasant (lovely lone ballad “Nerida’s Gone”) to plodding (the sickly sweet “The Underdogs,” tellingly the only song that seems to break character and opt for a more personal touch).
The album sometimes suffers from a sense of sameness (perhaps another good reason the similarly structured singles were spaced out) and the lyrics may not appeal to everyone who hasn’t read up on their mythology (the title itself is a nod to a Norse myth of creation) but Voluspa and The Golden Filter still have more than enough charm to move asses. The highs are heavenly and the lows are far from dismal, leaving enough room for Penelope and Stephen to try to keep the fire going longer on album two.