Review Summary: A truly unique female artist in the spectrum, Chelsea Wolfe creates dense, lo-fi folk music with sinister tones. Returning with a new compilation of acoustic songs and a new label, Sargent House, Wolfe shows us just why she’s a valuable gem in the scene
In the space of time in which it takes for the music to hit my ears, flow through me and manifest into an idea, I find myself wanting. Always do I desire more too quickly and, as a result, I fail to soak in what I already have been given. Time, multiple listens and patience are required on my part to gain enlightenment on the music’s body. The idea is that I wish to understand the purpose of the music and how it will fit into myself as a person and an artist. It’s tough to grasp the fact that I will never fully digest a piece of music the way I wish to. As if I desire to assimilate its gift into my system entirely. In the darkness that Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs
is presented to me in, I no longer find myself wanting. Wolfe sings the ideals perfectly in the opening track ‘Flatlands,’ a song in which one craves simplicity (“I want flatlands/I don’t care about money and all its friends/...I want flatlands/will you go there with me”). Unknown Rooms
is a simple album. Stripped down and soul bare. As the album essentially is
a collection of acoustic songs (most of which Wolfe had written/been writing years prior to its release), each song is crafted beautifully and Wolfe shows her gift for the art of subtlety. We quickly find ourselves embraced by the shadowed arms of Unknown Rooms’
At its core, Unknown Rooms
is carried by Wolfe’s ethereal vocals, lingering and hanging on the listener’s ear. As if her voice floats solemnly like a hushed breath on the wind, it intertwines its body of influence with the contrast of Wolfe’s stark and solemn guitar arrangements. In the background, multiple songs feature a light and gradual build of various instruments. ‘Flatlands,’ ‘Appalachia’ and ‘Spinning Centers’ feature haunting demonstrations of violin and viola, in which they form and meld with Wolfe’s voice; other songs featuring a minor bass presence, as well as drumming, piano and synths. When all of this comes together, the album has underlying tones of loneliness, the music feels weightless and airy, almost as if it could escape you. Songs like ‘Flatlands’ and her cover of Karlos Rene Ayala’s ‘Boyfriend’ (which was also originally composed by Ben Chisholm, Wolfe’s bandmate for this record) present an ominous, brooding tone, the latter of which coming across much more foreboding in its execution, the former seeming more hopeful, but gloomy nonetheless.
While 2011’s Apokalypsis
saw Wolfe bringing forth a claustrophobic feeling of blackness and tension, Unknown Rooms
is the chilling breath after. Working against its favour is the album’s length, which is a lonesome twenty-five minutes, but that much is to be expected as this isn’t so much a full-length album, and is described by Wolfe to be a collection of songs that were “once-orphaned, [and] given a home.” While I have referred to the album’s length as something that works against it, it is only as I wish for time to find myself lost within the Unknown Rooms
, but the album’s brevity compliments the feel and strength of the music. Short and sweet, as the saying goes.