first impressions: the golden filter – voluspa

*this first impression (which comes complete with a bonus mp3 at the end) was made possible by the mysterious duo themselves, who are currently streaming the album in its entirety on their website.

has it really only been a year or so since the golden filter first showed themselves in the blogosphere? given their highly concentrated and prolific presence on the web these past several months (via their seductive teaser singles and myriad remixes), not to mention their heavily hyped live performances at SXSW and elsewhere, it almost feels like we should be past their debut at this point. to me, at least. nevertheless, the mysterious duo – now identified as vocalist penelope trappes and programmer stephen hindman – have yet to officially release voluspa (it’s currently available for free digitally with vinyl pre-orders). after all of the cryptic preview clips and press buildup, it sounds… pretty much like the golden filter. this could be a blessing or a curse depending on who you ask, though to my knowledge, they have but one noteworthy detractor. me? i’m hooked. while voluspa doesn’t exactly surprise, it still has enough sparkle and sheen to impress and often enchant.

more observations after the jump…

  • “solid gold,” “thunderbird” and “hide me” are all reprised here. all three have already been talked about at length elsewhere and need no further elaboration, except to say that they all remain awesome.
  • the pizzicato strings on opener “dance around the fire” give the song welcome touch of anxiety, almost like the album is as eager to sprawl out of the speakers as many listeners will be to hear it.
  • the ghosts of bernard summer’s guitar and peter hook’s bass haunt the shadows of the single-worthy, saint etienne-esque “look me in the eye.”
  • lyrically, less tends to be more on this album. trappes is at her best when she keeps it cryptic, not so much singing as ritualistically breathing, chanting, howling, almost as if she’s actively conjuring dance. this fits well with the mythological themes on the album (“voluspa” itself is even an old norse poem about the creation of the world and its impending end). also helping with the ritualistic feel is…
  • the organic drums! they contrast hindman’s silent shouts of synthesizer very nicely, creating a nervy tension throughout the album and adding more muscle to the arrangements, particularly during the epic mid-song crescendo of “stardust.”
  • though you wouldn’t think it at first, the filter do balladry quite nicely. “the underdogs” is a little overly sweet (if beautifully arranged), but the brief, piano-driven “nerida’s gone” is a shivery delight.

like some hybrid of cut copy and italians do it better, the golden filter bridge the gap between sunny indie and nocturnal disco very nicely. i’d be lying if i said a little more overt variety wouldn’t be appreciated, but i’m not about to rag on a group who are quite good (and more often than not, great) at what they do simply for doing it. besides, this is no fistful of “solid golds.” the aforementioned organic touches of instrumentation go a long way toward keeping voluspa sounding fresh.

i’m reminded a bit – not in sound so much as spirit – of the eternally underrated english duo curve. they too spiked the indie rock kool-aid with danceable moonshine and slightly sinister female vocals, and they too arrived fully formed via a series of well-received early singles, never bothering to fix what wasn’t broke on subsequent full-lengths. while the golden filter aren’t quite as ahead of the time as they were, i sincerely hope they’re not met with the same raised eyebrows for committing the unthinkable crime of delivering exactly what they teased, no more, no less. i choose to appreciate what they’re giving me, and if you’re smart, you’ll do the same.

voluspa is out june 15 stateside.

here’s that mp3 as promised: peter, bjorn & john return the favor for penelope and stephen’s top-notch redo of their song “lay it down” last year.

hide me (peter, bjorn & john’s hortlax cobra remix)

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