I’ve been in a bit of a mood today, so I’ve been seeking something uniquely tuned to my tunneled outlook of fading light and tenuous balance. That’s when Penelope Trappes stepped out from the Spotify shadows and into my churning, burning mindset.
She’s a Londoner, Aussie-born, and specializes in pinpoint-focused melodies of extreme minimalism and infinite space. Her music is specifically sullen, highly beatless, bathed in effervescent delay, all beautifully misted in a light drizzle of melancholic lyricism.
The solitude of her single “Burn On,” and specifically, the stunning Mogwai rework of its sparsely keyed tones and textures is what caught my ear.
On its own original terms, “Burn On” feels like the sole, singular flame in a cavernous darkness, peering in and out of the blanketed blackness in gentle sweeps of reclusive reminiscence. It conjures the essence of early, exploratory excursions into ambience, akin to minimalist dream pop outings, the likes of which were born from the early, primordial fires of the Ivo Watts-Russell era of U.K. forged 4AD Records – This Mortal Coil, The Cocteau Twins, or their exquisite collaboration with stateside composer Harold Budd, “The Moon and the Melodies.”
In the guitar-fitted hands of Scottish post-rock pioneers Mogwai, “Burn On” attains a monolithic instrumentalism, still minimal in essence, yet bathed in an epic resonance, fulfilling the introverted emptiness with a plea of white noise warmth and slight hints of blistering hope. It’s actually quite stunning in its majestic movements, trailing tails of fluttery feedback, a symphonic whorl and wash, splashed amongst subtle layers of progressive escalation, peaking in a searing crescendo. It’s a pinnacle of aural height that Mogwai ascend quite naturally.
Both renditions of “Burn On” are obviously mood boards of distinct psyches, each definitive in its focus, forged in a fire of singular emotion, expounded upon through diverse instrumentalist extremes. As such, I’ve found each uniquely suited to take the edge off my mixed moods and restless mind, offering equal weight from opposing ends, patching the holes in the soul, bridging the gaps of the splintered spirit.
Whether it’s Penelope Trappes’ minimalist tome, or Mogwai’s maximalist expansion, perhaps one of these variants of “Burn On” might offer a similar solace. Try them out and see how brightly they burn.
“Burn On (Mogwai Rework)” from the 2019 album “Penelope Redeux.”
“Burn On” from the 2018 album “Penelope Two.”