Show Review: Chelsea Wolfe @ the Mohawk (9.6)

After spending several weeks listening to Pain is Beauty by Chelsea Wolfe, I was really anticipating an incredible show on Friday.  Her voice and her continual growth led to a rather full crowd of eager lookie-loos yearning to hear her dark take on pop music.  She was joined by Dallas act True Widow who aimed to set off the night in the right way.

Read on for thoughts, and thanks to our friend Bryan at PopPress for sharing some photos with us. 

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Show Preview: Chelsea Wolfe @ Mohawk (9/6)


Date 9/6/13
Location Mohawk
Doors 8pm
Tickets $13 @ Mohawk

Tons of shows are going down in Austin this weekend, but we highly recommend you keep the Chelsea Wolfe show going down at Mohawk on your list of things to do.  I’ve always been a fan of Chelsea and her music so this should be a great show.  Opening support is provided by Dallas’ own True Widow.

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Chelsea Wolfe – Pain Is Beauty

chelsea-wolfe-pain-is-beautyRating: ★★★★☆

It’s been a busy three years for Chelsea Wolfe, pushing out four albums of quietly acclaimed music.  Her early works were gentle, though you could sense a bit of brooding beneath what she was releasing.  Now, with Pain Is Beauty, there’s more force to her music, more emphasis; she’s managing to balance her angelic voice with the dark emotional content that’s been there all along.  Finally, this feels like what Chelsea wants us to hear.

After listening to the folkier approach of Unknown RoomsChelsea Wolfe makes an immediate statement with “Feral Love.”  It’s got a pulsating drum loop that is made more emphatic by scratching beneath the surface and punctuated noise.  Her voice sits perfectly in the mix, but the accent of the backing female vocal only strengthens the tune before it fades out.  Yet, immediately the ante is upped with “Hit a Wall.” There’s a driving beauty hidden in the instrumentation, but while there’s an obvious darkness, Wolfe’s angelic voice serves as the perfect foil.

While I find that the first few tracks are quite forceful, there’s also a playful element to Pain Is Beauty.  “The Warden” is about as pop-centric as I think Chelsea would go; the beat beneath this song is about as light as you’ll find in her work, allowing her voice to shine as the glorious instrument that it is.  Smartly, Wolfe juxtaposes this stellar song by placing it next to “Destruction Makes the World Burn.”  The guitar steals the show on this one, leaving listeners with a tune that closely resembles contemporaries like Vivian Girls, had they only grown up transfixed by metal.

For me, I find that Chelsea Wolfe has a striking ability that few have managed in recent years; she is able to keep my attention, despite songs that tinker beyond the 8 minute mark.  Her opus, “The Waves Have Come” is built upon a piano backbone, and like the system of tides, there are varying ebbs and flows within the tune.  The music rises and falls, quiets then joyfully explodes.  It’s possibly the perfect statement track for this record, as the instrumentation, and the careful touches of emphasis, are so incredible that it leaves no doubt about how much care went into each and every detail within.  It’s not just this song, though it is quite obvious here, but the whole record.  That says a lot considering this is her fourth album in as many years.

Pain Is Beauty is finally the statement album that you could feel Chelsea Wolfe building towards.  Every detail is attended to on the record, yet it doesn’t lose the intimacy of her vocals.  The dark tint that often coats her work remains, but the curtains have been drawn back even more, letting us all see the magnificent talent that she has become.

Slow Burner From Chelsea Wolfe

chelseaChelsea Wolfe is an artist who has always earned positive press and muchos de praise around these offices.  With that said, you can imagine that we were excited today to receive a new song from her called “The Waves Have Come”.  The song starts out fairly slow, and some may write it off, but wait around until about the 2 minute mark when this baby really takes off.  At that point, some nice drums kick in to take us towards an incredible rising action that somehow never comes down for me until the track wraps up after 8 beautiful minutes.

New album Pain is Beauty is due out September 3rd on Sargent House.

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Chelsea Wolfe – Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs

Rating: ★★★½☆

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.



Slow Number from Chelsea Wolfe

I’ve raved about the songstress Chelsea Wolfe in the past, having fallen in love with her haunting pop last year on Apokalypsis.  Now she returns with a softer affair, one based mostly on her voice and acoustic instrumentation, though other bits are added.  She seems much more confident this time around, having settled completely into her remarkable voice.  Her new album, Unknown Rooms, comes out on October 16th, and it’s definitely going to be a must have as we move into the wintry months. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

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Chelsea Wolfe – Apokalypsis

Rating: ★★★★☆

More often then not in this day and age of music, bands will go for what I like to call ‘the single approach,’ or perfecting one of their songs so that it attracts the ears of potential listeners, and then failing to provide an album that matches the excellence of the single, or culminates with the other songs for a thematic approach. Regardless of what the rest of the music world is doing, Chelsea Wolfe seems to be dedicated to doing things her way, which means an album Ἀποκάλυψις (pronounced apokalypsis) themed around darkness.

If the album title wasn’t enough, or even the track titles, to prove that this is a deeply sinister work, then the first noises you hear should do the trick. The first ‘song’ on the album, or the twenty-five second screeching noises entitled “Primal/Carnal,” sounds exactly like the title entails; an animal coming to life, but not just any animal, more specifically going off Wolfe’s outwardly dark themes. After this introductory track, “Mer,” the first real song kicks in and instantly Wolfe’s vocals hook, oozing with haunting qualities. It is much akin to that of Jenn Wasner from Wye Oak, which is obviously not a bad thing, as the female powerhouse vocal is never something to sneeze at, especially when its sweetness is juxtaposed against grungy instrumentals. Meanwhile, in the background, you have simmering cymbals and slowly effervescing guitar parts that provide a dark ambient folk/rock/pop vibe.

As aforementioned, Ἀποκάλυψις doesn’t really follow the pattern of one song standing apart from the others. Rather, it is the opposite, in that in order to absorb the rich, heavy and blackness of Wolfe’s gothic rock, you need to listen to the whole album, all the way through. Sure, like most records, you’ll pick out your favorite song, but there is a general sense of atmosphere required on all of the songs that makes it difficult to really immerse yourself in this kind of music without some preface or transition into. In effect, this phenomenon is probably the most unique and alluring factor of Chelsea’s work, and its cohesiveness is a lovely break from the banality of albums that just sit as a collection of similar sounding songs.

I won’t lie to you and say that this is a light effort, in the slightest. Instead, it is one of the more solid pieces of music that you will find these days. However, if you are ready to sit down and just soak up all of the darkness that Chelsea Wolfe is doling out, then this should be a beautiful album for you to relish in.


Download: Chelsea Wolfe – Advice and Vices [MP3]

New Music from Chelsea Wolfe

You’re not likely to find a female musician who comes across as beautifully haunting as Ms. Chelsea Wolfe.  It’s not just her look, but the way her songs capture this dark density, then softly wrap that around the gentle cool in her voice.  Even short tracks, such as the one below, will reach into you, grabbing hold of you inner dark side, hoping to pull out every hidden secret in hopes of freeing your soul.  Ms. Wolfe will be releasing her new record Apokalypsis on July 21st via Pendu Sound Recordings, and surely this effort will mark her as one to be watched from here on out. I dare you not to let yourself get lost in this mesmerizing track.


Download: Chelsea Wolfe – Advice and Vices [MP3]

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