Chelsea Wolfe – Unknown Rooms: A Collection Of Acoustic Songs
Label: Sargent House Records
Chelsea Wolfe, for those new to her, is a largely independent folk singer-songwriter from California who makes her trademark sound by blending her largely acoustic feel with elements from the likes of drone, doom, punk and even black metal. Her 2011 release “Ἀποκάλυψις” (Apocalypse) featured some tracks with occasional haunting shrieks and screams, along with drone-laden outros, and her 2010 release “The Grime And The Glow” even had greatly distorted moments often heard in noise-rock.
That said, this is her third full-length release and her first album since joining Sargent House Records and as the title suggests, Wolfe seems to concentrate more on the pure acoustic sound this time around – leaving a lot of the other influences at the door. While this might cause a stir of doubt in a Chelsea Wolfe fan, there should be no real cause for alienation on this release as her signature brooding atmosphere is still here.
Opening track Flatlands is beautifully harmonic – with a lo-fi recording sound along with ridiculously organic guitar that sounds like Chelsea Wolfe is literally in your room plucking away. Per standard, Wolfe’s soft yet strong voice hypnotises as she rolls along her mysterious lyrics of denouncing materialism and explaining her want for pure love, for example: “I want flatlands / I don’t want precious stones / I never cared about / Anything you’ve ever owned”. And when the strings begin to flow along the melody of the guitar… it’s the sound of heartstrings being pulled.
In Spinning Centers, Chelsea Wolfe enters a higher register in her vocals which suits the dreamy and atmospheric feeling of the instruments, the strings more prominent than the guitar almost in reverse of Flatlands. The following track Appachalia sees her return to her usual style with drums making an appearance, which along with the winding and moaning upright bass, really has this strong trekking-along-the-desert tale feel.
Boyfriend, originally by fellow doomy folk singer-songwriter Karlos Rene Ayala, is perhaps the darkest track on the album due to the almost funeral-mood created by the bass-orientated guitar, with rising and falling background synth drones. Wolfe’s vocals get a bit more raspy and mournful, creating a haunting vibe with the lyrics “There is a stranded heart / Swimming home carefully”. Eventually the low synths become louder as she raises her vocals in a pleading manner, sounding as if her world is falling apart.
So while there is nothing to really complain about with this album, it can feel abruptly short, clocking in just under 25-minutes, however by the end it seems quite easy to put the album back to the start and be completely unfazed to go through it all again. For Chelsea Wolfe fans, then this should be love at first sight all over again; for any folk and acoustic lovers looking for a darker and melancholic brand of the style – then this is worth checking out.
Favourite tracks: Flatlands, The Way We Used To, Appalachia.