“Summoning the great ghosts of vintage 4AD and Kranky, the Australian singer and producer makes inky dream pop that’s as heavy and welcoming as a weighted blanket.” ~ Philip Sherburne (Pitchfork)
Australian-born Brighton-based musician Penelope Trappes announces her new album, Penelope Three, out May 28th on Houndstooth, and shares “Nervous.” The lead single blossoms like a flower in time lapse, swelling with reverb and decaying into a dense sound world. The accompanying video is self-directed in collaboration with art collective Agnes Haus. “It delves inside the mind of a nervous smoking woman, which takes the form of an oppressive strange house,” explains Penelope. “Inside, she is confronting the balance between the masculine and feminine within her, which take the form of two spirit characters. Outside there are expansive but liminal moments of reprieve from the claustrophobia, but she invariably gets drawn back into the anxious loop of her own mental entrapment.“
Penelope Three is the final installment in a trilogy of albums, following Penelope Two and Penelope One (and a few more dreampop-oriented EPs). Penelope completes her ambitious and other-worldly triptych with an album of healing, on which she looks to release herself from fear and into love, evoked in her signature ambient gothic dreamlands that are equal parts shoegaze pop and surrealist soundscapes.
Where Penelope One explored aspects of birth and rebirth and the power of the female body, and Penelope Two was centred around the acknowledgement of grief and how we carry our own stories of loss, Penelope Three is about healing the stories held in her body by surrendering to universal love. In it, Penelope explores her metamorphosis through tales of motherhood, the divine feminine, anxiety, healing powers and their spiritual connections through vocal loops, piano and guitar drenched in reverb, all underpinned by subterranean drones. She looks not just to release herself from the grieving process in Penelope Two, but also of societal anxieties, embracing the generational shift that is happening as her daughter grows up, her mother gets older and how she sees the world drastically changing. “I’m digging up the underworld with visual motifs, and a mystical, gothic darkness that symbolises my struggles,” she says. “Yet the universal message is that of overcoming our fears to allow the love in. This is the healing.”
Crucially, for this final part of the trilogy, Penelope has returned to focus on her voice, her first and original instrument. “The compositions are very driven by the vocals, because it is our primal instrument that can tell our story,” she says. Her singing is swaddled and haunted by brooding and atmospheric soundscapes, her poetic lyrics lifted by sounds sometimes light and hallucinatory, other times menacing and cavernous. Despite formal vocal training in opera and jazz when she was younger, it wasn’t until after her daughter was born that Penelope began writing her own music. Now in her 40s, she says coming into music later has been eye opening, and she laments the fact that women past 30 are too often discarded by the music industry: “Creativity doesn’t go away when you get older, it flourishes, changes, grows like all of life,” she says, “it amazes me that this is still something for society to wrap their heads around.”
AGENT: Darren James-Thomas