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Chelsea Wolfe


[Pendu Sound Recordings; 2011]

By ; June 30, 2011 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

The truth is, I’m not entirely sure where Chelsea Wolfe came from. From her overall sound and the look of some of the artwork that accompanies her music, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to find out that she’d first wandered into a recording studio from some gypsy street cult that she’d finally tired of. Of course, after digging into “Mer,” one of the lead tracks off her forthcoming album Ἀποκάλυψις (pronounced “apocalypsis”), I find myself not wanting to know her origins. For now at least, I prefer to keep her figure shadowy, her whereabouts unknown, and her personal tale a closed book. One listen to “Mer” should highlight why.

“Mer” is an undeniably ghostly track, Wolfe’s voice gliding across it’s sinister instrumentation like all the many apparitions you’ve seen in movies. The arrangement is equally revenant, though the steady rhythmic percussion and hand shakers laced throughout provide a nice kick. The best element of the song though is the guitar riff that quietly opens the track and persists throughout, the kind of riff that ignites imagery of dusty back porches in old haunted houses. If you’ve ever seen a good horror movie, it’s the same type of riff you get right before the curious girl first wanders into the house with the busted window shutters slapping around in the wind. It’s the same riff that comes back around when she notices an open cupboard that had previously been locked. But as tense and eerie as it is, there’s a certain fragile romanticism tied up in it too. As Wolfe beckons “how can you live with yourself?” and the guitar line jolts into a different key and pattern, it lets the underlying desperation of the song bubble out from under all the cerebral muck.

While this track leaves much of Wolfe’s persona a mystery, it offers just enough brief glimpses to keep interest boiling. The way a candle flickers in a dark room, offering only quick light to different objects, is how this tune operates. Wolfe herself remains veiled, but parts of her occasionally come into fuzzy view: when that guitar rises we get a taste of her emotional edginess, when she asks questions with her lyrics we can vaguely understand her longings and concerns. But yet, we never get close enough to see the full picture at once. Full of craftsmanship and mystique, Wolfe’s “Mer” succeeds because of that.


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