Album Review: Chelsea Wolfe – Birth Of Violence
Sometimes, one must stop in order to move forward again. For Chelsea Wolfe – singer, songwriter, musical witch and keeper of lost souls, depending on the mood – this need comes following a tenure on the road that bordered on the addicted. It can do funny things to a person, the perpetual motion and feeling of statelessness. As Chelsea began to feel that the relentlessness and exhaustion of eight years of hard road miles were wearing her thin, she retreated into the isolation of her secluded Northern California home to get her head back together and reconnect with herself.
The music she wrote and recorded that would become Birth Of Violence came swiftly and with an urgency that had to be caught on tape as quickly as possible, but it has emerged more stripped back and more in line with her roots, where acoustic guitars, brushed drums and the lightest touches of electronics gently embrace. What’s come from this period of regrouping is a masterwork of gothic Americana, a record of glass-like fragility and honesty, and wood-hard resolve that’s as beautiful as it is dark and confessional.
The gentle strum of opening track The Mother Road is a clear pointer to the path here. ‘Guess I needed something to break me’, Chelsea hauntingly intones, as gently rising and falling strings mimic the passing of traffic on an endless highway. Far from depressing, though, this is the sound of a person decompressing, and through it, emerging whole again.
It’s not just that these songs have a quiet charm and gentle ease to them that makes Birth Of Violence so stunning, but the intimacy that they possess. Be All Things and American Darkness – a song that mixes the melancholia of Portishead with a delivery so soft it almost feels like it might fall apart – radiate a warm tenderness that takes you deep into the retreat from reality from which they were born. On the title-track, meanwhile, the beautiful melody is accented by the audible sound of Chelsea’s plectrum picking out the notes, and her fingers squeaking on the strings. It’s a cosiness that typifies the whole album, a sense of the relaxed, comfortable feelings that only truly come from home, a closed door, and a break from the demands and distractions of the outside world.
Close to the heart of things as you are made to feel, as though sat on the other side of the room, there remains a definite air of hermitage and enigma to Chelsea Wolfe here. You are invited into the home in which Birth Of Violence was recorded, but not into the rooms with closed doors. And that’s fine, because the personal depth of this music is self-evident, even without being fully privy to what’s going on beneath the surface. What is known is that, whether going on creative quests as on more recent albums, or simply trying to reconnect with something more simple, this is the work of a brilliant artist who is singular in both talent and vision. And that’s worth taking proper time away to discover.
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