FRACTURED AIR

The universe is making music all the time

Chosen One: Penelope Trappes

leave a comment »

“… a lot of it is just piecing the puzzle together of these array of sounds that I can just create the emotion with.”

—Penelope Trappes

 Words: Mark Carry

Penelope-Trappes-credit-Agnes-Haus

London-based artist Penelope Trappes’ sophomore full-length ‘Penelope Two’ – and follow-up to her essential debut ‘Penelope One’ for Optimo Music – casts a hypnotic, luminous spell through its stunningly beautiful song cycles: drenched in reverb that somehow drift into the ether of our innermost fears. The stark intimacy of the Australian-born composer’s compositions is what strikes you immediately; evoking the timeless spirit of early 4AD artists (This Mortal Coil, Cocteau Twins) and kindred spirits of Grouper’s Liz Harris and Tropic Of Cancer.

On the album’s gripping centrepiece ‘Maeve’, the chorus refrain of “let go” is repeated beneath delicate piano chords and lucid guitar haze. I feel ‘Penelope Two’ becomes a process of letting go: to allow the waves of anguish and pain wash over you and, in  turn, to wrap your troubles up in dreams. The raw emotion distilled in Trappes’ soaring vocals casts infinite rays of solace and hope as light flickers from within the depths of darkness.

The way in which the drone infused ambient instrumentals (‘Silence’; ‘Kismet’; ‘Exodus’) are masterfully interwoven with the vocal-based song structures (‘Connector’; ‘Burn On’; ‘Maeve’) creates one cohesive whole of staggering beauty and emotional depth. The ethereal dream pop gem of ‘Connector’ possesses endurance to overcome the darkness. The immaculate production and divine soundscapes immerses the listener inside a wholly other realm. The chorus refrain “I am the connector” epitomizes the magical, far-reaching qualities of Trappes’ immense songwriting prowess.

‘Penelope Two’ is out now on Houndstooth.

https://penelopetrappes.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/penelopetrappes/

We are delighted to welcome Penelope Trappes for a Cork show on Saturday 27th April 2019. The Australian-born artist’s sublime sophomore full-length ‘Penelope Two’ charted #3 on our best albums of 2018 list, so we are beyond thrilled to invite her to play a special live headline show in Cork, Ireland. All details are below.

Fractured Air & Plugd present:

Penelope Trappes & special guests
Saturday 27th April
Roundy (Upstairs)
1 Castle Street,
Cork

TICKETS: https://uticket.ie/event/fractured-air-present-penelope-trappes-special-guests

 

04-penelopeIMG

Interview with Penelope Trappes.

 

Please take me back to the making of ‘Penelope Two’ and if you had a starting point in mind and how the album came to be?

Penelope Trappes: The initial start was not that long after ‘Penelope One’. It was triggered by a dear friend of mine – who lives in Dublin actually – his wife had just passed away, who was a good friend of mine. And it was a very tumultuous, sad state of affairs because she had just given birth to a little kid – and I’ve mentioned it in my press release – it was really tragic and I strangely started feeling incredibly empathetic to his cause and I just sat down and I started to write this song called ‘Maeve’ (which was her name). So, I basically just picked up a guitar and played some chords and sang one take and recorded it: I don’t think I even sat down and wrote lyrics – it just came out of me. I had a few other songs that I may have been working on that were around but that was the one thing that triggered the whole album.

The soundscapes and pristine instrumentation that you use is really striking and also, the intimacy of these songs and the rawness that can be felt throughout the album.

PT:  It’s wonderful that it gets received that way. I suppose you have to dive into the intimacy when you listen to it and people feel that because I was writing stuff and then there was another dear friend of mine who again the same thing: she lost family members in a tragic accident. And it was weird because you don’t ever want to feel like you’re capitalizing in any way shape or form of other people’s grief but I think the intimacy and the addressing of such feelings is something that just started to infiltrate the whole album; that it was important to discuss – whether it be in just sound or with words, to open up: discussing things that may not necessarily be always the most comfortable things to talk about and bearing witness to certain things. And by working as a solo artist on this stuff I was able to be very much ‘in the zone’ and try to put those feelings into sound.

How long was the process itself from – as you say – writing the song ‘Maeve’ to finding that you had the album done because it almost feels as if the songs are flooding out of you (and becomes almost like one long piece of music)?

PT: Well, it didn’t happen rapidly. I reckon it was probably around eight months, from beginning to end of compiling it all. But I guess that eight months became for me a very transformative time since it was inceptions about how I felt about things too.

The production element as well is another wonderful hallmark of ‘Penelope Two’, I’d love to gain an insight into your studio set-up?

PT: It started with ‘Maeve’ on the guitar and then I’ve explored and had on my first album [‘Penelope One’] using traditional upright piano. My first album I had done in like a small piano studio and I really hadn’t gone too far out of that realm (with piano and voice). I’ve always added lots of field recordings and usually just from my I-phone (things where I’ve been in places where I’ve heard things that just stand out). Three tracks were written in New York at a friend’s house using his piano that correlate to my other friend’s moments. And then obviously I doused it in reverb – I love lots of reverb – and a lot of it is just piecing the puzzle together of these array of sounds that I can just create the emotion with. I’m working in Logic software but I try to keep the actual instrumentation for the most part – apart from things like field recordings – to hardware. I have a little analog synth that I like for droning sounds and things like that.

I love the series of photographs that comes with the narrative of the album itself. I wonder was that happening in tandem with the music?

PT: Well I work as part of a collective called Agnes Haus; these photos had been co-directed and shot over a period of time – not necessarily in correlation to when I was writing the songs. But again on ‘Penelope One’ I did a photobook for that as well so the visuals have always been part of the mood and general aesthetic of what I have been working on. I always knew I was going to do a photobook for this album because I had done it before. So they didn’t exactly line up in the calendar of the months  being written and produced.

I was introduced to your other projects – like the duo Golden Filter and your more electronic projects – after first discovering your solo album ‘Penelope One’. I suppose each one is independent of the other but would you find that it has its own set of challenges?

PT: Yeah I mean it’s interesting, The Golden Filter is vastly different to what I’m doing as solo. I tend to likening it to – like on an energy level – the Golden Filter stuff is very yang (it’s got very high energy and live it’s very intense) but this is the yin; both going solo and having my own time and being able to be introspective and more emotionally in touch with the yin side (which in Darwinism is more feminine and less energetic). It’s a tricky balance but I feel like that’s like life as you have low energy times and the high energy times and it’s all about for me to find the balance – I mean The Golden Filter still exists but not as busy; it’s out there and it’s doing its thing – between the two projects and it’s quite a nice way to be able to express all sides of yourself.

For the live setting, how do you find your solo songs translated into the live setting because as you say it’s deeply personal music? It must be an experience in itself to be able to perform these songs live?

PT: On the how to translate these deeply personal moments into the live thing, for example, I’ve been known to tear up a little when I do ‘Maeve’ but as far as the instrumentation of it all goes because there are these amorphous levels in the record (with all these sounds), I have to strip it back because it’s just me on stage. I mean in a perfect case – maybe in a year or so – I could have a few musicians onstage with me but I keep it pretty simple live. I have a keyboard, a sample – again it’s all hardware, I don’t bring a laptop up on stage with me – and then a loop pedal for vocals. I have done a couple of shows not with guitar but I’m thinking I’ll start bringing that along as well. So it’s more minimal but I feel like in that space I’m able to access the more emotional element because a lot of the whole project for me – being solo – is the minimal element so I suppose in the end my voice is the main instrument that is able to convey that. And then I have these spatial times in the set which is almost like meditation time [laughs] between these raw emotional moments.

As a listener I was immediately likening the music to Grouper whose like a kindred spirit in many ways.

PT: Grouper is wonderful, I suppose there are a lot of similarities there. In the beginning when I started the whole thing I was thinking a lot about early 4AD artists like This Mortal Coil and that sort of feel and acts like Grouper definitely feel like a kindred spirit. And then perhaps that’s just tying into what I was saying about the balance of energies in society – the very aggressive fast, full-on energy and the quiet, contemplative and more emotional stuff. And maybe it is just wonderful to know that there are other women – and men too, let’s not be sexist here [laughs] – there are people making this music you can have a very quiet contemplative and perhaps emotional reaction to. I saw her recently play in London and it was like being in church or something [laughs]: you could hear a pin drop; she didn’t say one word to anybody. She was even so humble when the people started arriving at the venue she was actually doing her own sound check still with people who were arriving and she was just sitting there and I mean she’s telling her story I guess – I think that’s what it’s about isn’t it; about finding a quiet place to be able to tell people a story.

Thinking back on growing up in Australia, would you have early musical memories, how soon did you realize how important music would be for you?

PT: I feel like music was always one of those things that was around my house growing up. I grew up in a rural town called Lismore, Australia – funnily enough it’s not far from you in County Waterford there’s a Lismore up there – which is near Byron Bay, it’s a very beautiful part of the world; I generally tell people Byron Bay because people when they travel to the Northern Rivers of Australia, they go there – they don’t go to the town where I grew up in [laughs] because it’s a boring town. And so I was quite isolated from the rest of the world, pre-Internet and Australia is always a bit behind the times due to location and definitely pre-Internet for sure. So I just used whatever I could get my hands on like whatever my parents had on around the house, so a bit of jazz and classical but not as much as I would have liked to have had (but I had to make do with what was around for listening). I studied piano between when I was seven and fourteen and then after that, by high school I was just trying to get my hands on as much music that I could. And then it continued after high school, I was actually studying folk and classical vocals and then I moved into opera for a bit – just to push my voice but I didn’t really resonate personally with the opera singing [laughs]; it wasn’t really my cup of tea, although I do like it now, more. So it started with piano and I taught myself how to play guitar and the vocals was always the thing but I guess as a child I always loved the concept of performing, in some way shape or form.

Would you have plans or future projects for the new year?

PT: I have already started formulating ideas for ‘Penelope Three’ like lyrical ideas, singing and things that I feel like are happening around me – I’ve already started documenting it and this time of the year is a great time with the close of the year and that time of the year where you get contemplative. I’m hoping that this winter – once I get through the madness of christmas – that January, February, March I’ll hole myself up and really start coming up with actually releasing these ideas into music. So that’s definitely going to be for the first half of the year and I’m not entirely sure where it will exist but hopefully I’ve got a few things up my sleeve where it will come out into the world.

‘Penelope Two’ is out now on Houndstooth.

https://penelopetrappes.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/penelopetrappes/

Fractured Air & Plugd present:

Penelope Trappes & special guests
Saturday 27th April
Roundy (Upstairs)
1 Castle Street,
Cork

TICKETS: https://uticket.ie/event/fractured-air-present-penelope-trappes-special-guests

Written by admin

March 12, 2019 at 4:49 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: