Chelsea Wolfe, Wovenhand | Thalia Hall | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader
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Chelsea Wolfe

Chelsea Wolfe

Shaina Hedlund

When: Tue., Sept. 1, 9:30 p.m. 2015
Price: $18-$20, $15 in advance
Last month Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe released The Abyss (Sargent House), which threads her bleak, witchy, vaguely folksy singing through lurid gothic darkness and massive monoliths of growling low-end distortion—a combination that’s as satisfyingly obvious as chocolate and peanut butter. On some songs, only her vocal melody reads reliably as notes, rather than as vaguely pitched noise: she batters “Carrion Flowers” with toothy, undulating pulses of electronic bass and barrages of clipped industrial hissing and pistoning. Others rely more on riffs, such as “Iron Moon,” where she pierces the monstrous bulk of the waltz-time chorus with a bereft howl. But the whole record shares a sluggish metabolism and syrupy, narcotized feel well suited to its thematic undercurrent: Wolfe’s experience with sleep paralysis, an unsettling phenomenon that often manifests itself as a dreamer believing herself awake but unable to move and sensing a presence nearby (“In bed awake with shadow beings / They crawl inside and wait with me,” she sings on “Iron Moon”). Her hazy voice generally does little to drive the arrangements in the absence of strong percussive or rhythmic elements, though, so that the quieter, gentler songs—“Crazy Love,” with its acoustic strumming and sirenlike descending curtains of viola, or “The Abyss,” with its rickety, off-balance loop of plinking piano—can seem unmoored and directionless. I prefer the tracks where Wolfe mashes the big red button that blows up the world. Her touring band consists of Ben Chisholm (bass, keys, programming) and Dylan Fujioka (drums), both of whom appear throughout The Abyss, and guitarist Aurielle Zeitler.
— Philip Montoro
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