Following her debut album ‘Penelope One’ for Optimo Music, London based Antipodean vocalist, musician and soundscaper Penelope Trappes presents sophomore longplayer ‘Penelope Two’, for Houndstooth.
“’Penelope Two’ was built around field recordings, mantras and meditations. Emptying my mind of clutter, I explored writing with guitars and synth drones, along with piano and reverb, to create depth and texture”, says Trappes.
Elements from multiple sources are subsumed by Trappes’ sonic presence; one hears Badalamenti and Julee Cruise’s work for ‘Blue Velvet’ and ‘Twin Peaks’, Slowdive’s dreampop, the scorched comedowns of early Primal Scream, Colin Newman’s dark melancholia, plus contemporaries like Tropic Of Cancer and Sky H1.
But to say this sounds like any of the above is a glaring oversimplification. It’s as if she’s sculpted her own pieces using only the reverb tails of other’s music, or has set fire to her record collection to paint audio pictures using just the smoke.
These distilled, rarefied creations take echoes as their starting point, with Trappes summoning swathes of tones, textures and emotions into something ethereal but also powerful, like an evocation of spirits. It’s also deeply melodic, with her intimate, maternally-tender voice floating in the middle of each three dimensional, womb-like sonic space.
The sound of recovery or comfort after damage, ‘Penelope Two’ offers an aural alleviation balm and post traumatic care. It’s reassuring, but darkness was clearly present in the recent past – seeped-in and hard to shake.
“I spent 2017 being an empath with two dear friends, who lost very close loved ones. One lost nearly her whole family in an accident and the other lost his partner of 23 years, after she gave birth to their third child. Echoing distance, pain, love and infinity – this album is dedicated to them”, she explains.
Eulogy, letting go of earthly bodies whilst love and spirit remain, questioning mortality and the cycle of birth-life-death are explored – as are predestination, existential crisis, connection to greater forces and overcoming the conduction of dark energy.
Light, love and the power of community are also extolled, with Trappes proffering that “deep in the core of our selves there’s a knowingness, almost an out-of-body sensation when a hidden message becomes clear and glorious. Love is the only sign telling us which way to go, in a chaotic and sometimes painful world.”
Originally from the Northern Rivers of NSW, Australia, Penelope spent a short-lived stint in a Brisbane indie band doing “Mazzy Star meets Leonard Cohen” before moving to New York and developing experimental electronic projects Locke and Priscilla Sharp, plus her best-known incarnation with partner Stephen –The Golden Filter.
Under the latter moniker the duo released albums with Brille, Vinyl Factory and Optimo that were praised by The FADER, Pitchfork, NME, Gorilla Vs Bear and Resident Advisor. Additional endeavours included sound-tracking short films and feature films, before an indefinite hiatus began.
When not making music Penelope works on photography, video and performance art as part of a visual arts collective, Agnes Haus.