Francis Bacon would’ve loved the Golden Filter’s debut. Not just for the fact that the tortured genius had a penchant for boy/girl electro duos, but that they clearly subscribe to his belief that an artist’s job is to “deepen the mystery”. Voluspa has so much mystery that it was delivered to my house in Scooby Doo’s Mystery Machine. At night. In the fog.
The Golden Filter want to take you down to the woods today. Invite only. Masks and cloaks, no trainers. This isn’t one of those delightful National Trust parks with benches and a lovely shop which sells novelty pens. No, it’s the kind of spooky forest where outstretched branches pull you in, where people look like animals and animals look like people, and the mouths of dark caves treasure infinite secrets. Oh, and there are eyes everywhere.
Born under a full moon, “Dance Around the Fire” opens proceedings in intriguing style—all twitching, stabbing violins and singer Penelope’s breathless mantra conjuring up some black devil disco club mojo. Cue naked narcotic nymphs a-dancin’ and a-prancin’ around a ceremonial bonfire. Hell, sounds good to me. It sets the tone for a record seemingly made through Alice’s looking glass. Moonlit, hazy disco with swagger ‘n’ stares and breathy vocals brimming with fire, ghosts, Nordic mythology, candles, stars, shadows, paths, and crystal visions. It’s damn convincing. Taste a drop of the Goblin-esque rush of “Stardust”: “Look at the cat’s eyes / Black lights electrified”. It’s laced with a frosty electro riff that’ll have you pulling the duvet over your head so the ghosts can’t get you. Red Rum! Reddd Rummm! Or there’s “Moonlight Fantasy”, with its stoned love slo-mo Billie Ray Martin worthy drawl, “You make my heart hurt / Hold me in your arms”. Smokingly sexy but yes, a little intense and a real “Blimey-is-it getting-hot-in-here?” moment.
Voluspa is a darker ride than expected, but pop fans don’t kick off those glitter heels just yet. It’s still “Dance O’Clock” chez Filter. The imperial beauty that launched the duo seemingly a lifetime ago, “Solid Gold”, takes centre stage and is still the perfect cure for Saturday night fever. It’s killer chat-up line “Follow the golden fox” is an offer no sane person should ever refuse. One hit of this good stuff and you’re hooked for life. It’s surfed the electro tsunami that flooded planet pop in the intervening years and still smoulders, well, “Hot like Mexico”. Ditto the recent single “Hide Me”. An elysian ascent into the heavens—and what a view!—with such delicate, glacial sadness it could be replicant Rachael serenading Deckard as the credits fall on Blade Runner. Let’s not forget the shoulda-been-mega “Thunderbird” either, a towering bad-ass beast of an electro anthem. It’s baffling how this whip-cracking beauty failed its maiden voyage. Maybe the punchy, Ladytron-ish “Look Me In The Eye” can hijack the mainstream. “Meet me in the dark”, it coos, with a chorus breaking like a wave of warm summer sunshine.
The more atmospheric, experimental tracks, though, suggest the Filter’s future is more than just glitter. “Frejya’s Ghost” is a chirpier version of St Etienne’s “Like a Motorway” and is therefore, obviously, ace. An enchanting, skipping dandy of a tune, it’s like watching Tinkerbell turning cartwheels in the stars, lost in her own world. The ghost army that drums through the fleeting “Kiss Her Goodbye” offer a tantalising glimpse into where they may march next too. The big winner though is “Nerida’s Gone”—think Nico singing Primal Scream’s “Shine Like Stars”. It’s divine. “Drowned by stars / Beyond your safety / The faulty ladder you climb”. It twinkles so mournfully it literally weeps out of your speakers. It would’ve made a powerful curtain closer, but bizarrely, it’s followed by the booming “Thunderbird”. It’s such a change of mood it’s like being clubbed with a frying pan when you’re lost deep in the middle of a really, really good dream.
From a band born into shadow, Voluspa is full of character and personality. At its peak, it’s bewitching, hypnotic and sexy enough to put steam in your strides. Anyone disappointed by the recent Goldfrapp album and jonesing for smart, unique electro pop should definitely head down to the Golden Filter’s neck of the woods. It’s simmering, feral, night music with enough lunar lunacy to suggest they might be worth marking on the map. Sequencing issues and a slight desire for them to stop pushing the “Disco Clap” button on their bontempi’s aside, long may they continue to wander off the beaten track. They may even soon find quite a crowd around that campfire. Just don’t forget your hooded cape. Oh, but I’m docking a point for leaving off “My Favourite Things”. Tut tut.
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