It would be difficult to think of Chelsea Wolfe without the haunting imagery that always seems to surround her, especially in the artwork and promotional materials that accompanies her release. But, with Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs, the title alone suggests a more intimate view from which we may look into the life of Wolfe. If anything, the only haunting that remains is the mesmerizing beauty of her voice, and the emotional pull of her latest batch of songs.
“Flatlands” is the opening track on this release, and also the longest of the bunch. The opening of the song is a personal guitar strum, with the quieted sound of crackling vinyl (or recording tape) making its way through. Wolfe enters the picture, serene and effortless, with her mention of “flatlands” almost coming off as floodlights. Careful string arrangements only do more to create an aura of pure majesty in her singing, careful and composed. I don’t think too many other artists can do it up this way. While I loved this song, it didn’t take me long to find one of my favorite tracks to date from Chelsea Wolfe.
“Spinning Centers” would almost seem playful, if it weren’t for that fact that Chelsea comes in on the cusp of the winds, her voice floating in softly atop the careful string work (both in guitar and accompaniment). Her vocals here are rather gentle, as opposed to the more forceful presentation she demonstrated early on. With her voice toying on the verge of a whisper, it’s difficult not to be drawn in by her voice alone. From here Unknown Rooms moves into “Appalachia,” which in name and mood seems more like a wayward folk number. It was here that I noticed more that her arrangements often bring more to life in these tracks than the actual guitar work; she probably doesn’t even need a guitar with such a strong vocal performance like the one she gives here.
Oddly, the latter half of the record is filled with echoes of Wolfe, with her presence sounding faint and distant in tracks like “Hyper Oz” or “Our Work Was Good,” the latter being one of my favorite short tracks of the year. In less than two minutes she captivates you with airy guitar strumming and a vocal that is haunted by its own whispering echo in the far off distance. But, none of it prepares you for the closer, “Sunstorm.” This tune is possibly one of the most spirited tracks Chelsea Wolfe has composed to date, and with that, she demonstrates that she can pretty much do whatever she wants in the near future. There’s no weakness, even if this song seems out of place on the rest of the recording; there’s an electric piano in place of the usual guitar. For me, it’s a reminder that Unknown Rooms might just be a stepping stone for Wolfe. She’s got an incredible voice, warm songwriting and above all else, it’s hard not to be captivated by what she’s doing. Put this one down as another great stepping stone into a quickly exploding career.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/04-Appalachia.mp3]