Much like the March of Progress, you can trace the evolution of The Golden Filter‘s sound through their various Optimo releases, starting with 2015’s Optimo Music debut, PSII03. Penelope Trappes and Stephen Hindman rose from the ashes of the nu-disco boom, and have since taken a gradual immersion into the sounds of their musical forebears, namely the likes of Chris & Cosey and This Mortal Coil. Nurturing a melting pot sound with every release, the Aussie/American duo blend elements of darkwave, industrial, synth-pop, house and techno into a distinctive style that is unmistakably their own.
The compelling allure of their music has always been a constant: back on the principal Optimo label once again with End Of Times, Trappe’s yearning vocals convey a sense of wistfulness and longing alongside Hindman’s seductive analogue constructions. Out later this week, we caught up with the long-time collaborators to talk up their impending release.
Hey guys, how has your year been?
We feel that we are on a threshold, transitioning from one time to another, entering a new world through an elaborate maze of experience, creativity and love.
End Of Times is your second Optimo Music release of 2017. How did you to come into contact with Twitch and Wilkes?
Nothing too exciting really. We reached out to Keith [JD Twitch] who runs Optimo Music to see if he would like to release our music. We had been fans of Optimo and Optimo Music for a while so it seemed like a good match.
As it turns out, Keith and Johnnie [AKA JG Wilkes] are two of the nicest people we have met within the music industry. Working directly with Keith on releases has been effortless and inspiring.
Despite its bleak title, Buddhism and mindfulness are referenced in the liner notes and the message is somewhat positive. Were those themes you had in mind from the beginning?
An end isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Letting go of the past and moving forward with an open heart is the only way forward. These kinds of themes have always permeated our creative headspace and personal lives. Politics versus the heart. It is the human condition of suffering that we have to face each day. Love is the answer.
Appearing on the same label, is there any particular reason why the first half of Still // Alone LP was pointed firmly towards the dancefloor while this release remains somewhat introspective throughout?
Well, Still//Alone did have ‘Alone’, Side B, which was also quite introspective. We have always looked to the dancefloor to celebrate life and then at other points, we face the quiet, go within, and face all of the deeper questions. We are into a lot of different kinds of music and it doesn’t always work throwing too many influences into every track. We thought it was better to separate them out, and highlight the duality of it all.
Your music has always appeared incredibly well-crafted. When writing a new track, is everything always meticulously planned, or do you ever favour a more intuitive approach?
Thanks! It starts from an intuitive feeling, individually or collectively, and then unfolds more and more, getting moulded in the production process. We’ve actually been letting things go where they go lot more over the last two releases, without overworking the production. There are no A&R people involved, and we have no manager influencing us, although Keith was a bit of an influence on how we finished the song ‘End Of Times’ with a sneaky reminder that it’s great to make a good pop song still.
You mention the release was almost exclusively written with modular gear. Can you shed some light on the setup used?
‘Darkness Falls’ was done entirely on modular gear, aside from the vocals, and a little bit of guitar at the end. We’re really not modular heads, but we have a 16 module Eurorack synth and sequencer that it quite erratic. a lot of the basslines for the last 3 years have come from that. It’s inspiring to be off the grid as far as notes and scales go, there is so much more to sound than a chromatic scale. It’s a bit like opening your bedroom door and finding out there is a giant room made of orange plastic lurking behind your bed that you previously didn’t know was there. Not always 100% useful, but super inspiring.
Has moving into your own studio space been much of a factor in shaping the new release?
Yes for sure. We know our own equipment, and it’s good to limit the sonic palette in our own familiar space. But strangely, we have already moved on from that Hackney Wick studio we made the EP in. We’re quite nomadic and move around a lot, but because of that, we decided to get a bigger place in South London with space for a studio in it, so now we’re making music in our own home studio. Having a safe place to dive in and out of at anytime of the day, avoiding the chaos outside when at all possible is good for us to maintain focus with all of the constant distractions and odd weather out there.
How, if at all, has moving to London affected The Golden Filter?
Stepping out of the USA with it’s unreasonably polarising political chaos meant we could let go of a lot of the anger that had infiltrated into our lives and channel our creativity into a more positive headspace. There was a need to evolve. Londoners always think we’re mad for leaving NYC because they see it as such an exciting, creative hub, but we desired a change. The energy there definitely works for a certain amount of time, and we have nothing but love for NYC, but for us there was a call to create a new home elsewhere. A lot of End Of times is about all of that negativity and selfishness that America fosters with it’s horrible figurehead, but still being able to think about the good and the love, but that’s probably because we are away from most of it. We still feel for our friends there who live and deal with it on a daily basis.
The lyrics on ‘Darkness Falls’ were inspired by an apocalyptic dream, while much of your pop-leaning material has an ethereal, dreamlike quality. Would you say the unconscious mind regularly informs your creative output?
Absolutely! 95 percent of brain activity is beyond our conscious awareness so our subconscious mind and dream states are where the majority of our creative ideas come from. I will wake from a dream and write it down and only a small amount will make sense but as I write more and more and then it turns into the basis of a song’s lyrics… and as it happens, the meanings becomes more and more clear.
Always going hand-in-hand with the music, is the interest in visual media something you both share?
Definitely. We watch a lot of film and oddies when we aren’t doing something with audio. We have been so DIY and independent, that we have always had to sort our own graphics, visuals, photos, and lately videos along with the sound and everything else. We like having complete control over everything.
Have you always been interested in the symbiotic relationship between pop and dance music?
Yeah. Really ever since hearing ‘Blue Monday’, which is one of the more perfect examples, we’ve had this interest in making vocals work on a dancefloor without having to go get a remixer to do it. but also, if it doesn’t work as a dance song, pop is cool too if you aren’t concerned with trying to be a megastar and part of the dark machine of the music industry.
Words like haunting are fairly ubiquitous when people talk about your music. Seeing it just passed, it seems fitting to ask whether you’re into Halloween?
Yeah. We kinda like to play with creative character identities all year long…
Any new releases that have been doing it for you lately, electronic or otherwise?
So much and so little. Music comes and goes, and is hard to say what’s been doing it for us. We just keep on listening to Frank Ocean and Grouper, while the rest comes and goes.
You’re set to perform live this Sunday for an in-store EP launch at London’s Rye Wax. Will you perform the release in its entirety, and if so, do you alter it to better suit a live setting?
Yeah, ‘End OF Times’ is a long Italo dance thing, which we ended up basing the dub version from. Serenity is similar to the record… The other two we have never played before and are still working them out! We’ll find out how they go. We’ll play a lot of other songs as well, from our 1st track ‘Solid Gold’, to upcoming January releases. Should be a fun intimate show!
And finally, is there anything in the pipleline?
After this EP, the dub mixes of ‘End OF Times’ will come out in January on a joint vinyl release between us and Optimo Music. Also in January, 2 tracks of ours are on a split 12” on Cin Cin Records. Penelope Two will also be out around March/April, along with a US tour for The Golden Filter.
End Of Times is out November 10th on Optimo Music – pre-order in vinyl and digital format here.