Navigating the landscape of contemporary alternative music can be an exercise in redundancy; true visionaries and boundary-pushers are few and far between. Enter Chelsea Wolfe. To simply call Wolfe unique would be an understatement. Even among her peers in the so-called “drone-metal-art-folk” scene she’s an icon, a stand-alone singer/songwriter whose fully-formed aesthetic and haunting timelessness appear almost without effort.
Originally hailing from Northern California, Wolfe’s formative years were spent tinkering in her country musician father’s home studio, crafting “Casio-based gothy R&B” songs. For years, however, she lacked the confidence to share her creations. However, in 2009, an overseas excursion as part of a nomadic performance troupe ignited her passion for performing and initiated a renewed interest in writing and recording. A year later she emerged with a breathtaking debut album, The Grime & The Glow, immediately establishing herself as the focal point in a wave of new artists intent on blurring the lines between established alt-rock memes. Marrying the gentle intimacy of folk, the atmospheric voodoo of death rock and the bleak, sullen nihilism of black metal, Wolfe’s sound effectively cast a genre all her own: a cavernous rumble, marked by stuttering drums, ethereal synths and a wash of guitar, all very much in the service of one of the most hypnotic, celestial voices in modern music.
In 2011, Wolfe relocated to Los Angeles and recorded her second album, Apokalypsis, which was subsequently met with critical adoration. In 2012, she signed with L.A.-based Sargent House and released Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs, less an “unplugged” digression than an exploration of the sonic possibilities afforded by peeling-back some of what makes her characteristic sound so lush. On the heels of the acoustic album, Wolfe released an EP of covers by the enigmatic anarcho-punk band, Rudimentary Peni, entitled Prayer for the Unborn. This out-of-left-field development served not only to illustrate Wolfe’s artistic solidarity with some of underground music’s most fringe elements but also to underscore her single-minded commitment to her vision and nobody else’s.
Now, in 2013, Chelsea Wolfe is set to unveil her third studio album, Pain is Beauty. A self-described love letter to nature, many of the album’s 12 tracks veer in a decidedly more electronic direction than previous recordings, while at the same time capitalising on Wolfe’s trademark penchant for the morose and otherworldly. As she explains, the album “becomes an exploration of ancestry, how the mythology, landscapes and traditions of our ancestors affect our personalities today.” She continues, “Honesty is what initially drew me to music, and I’ve been more honest and open with myself than ever through these songs. There is peace in truth. There is clarity in solitude. And there is power within simplicity and focus. Love is not always easy. Tormented love is something I understand more than society’s skewed idea of what love should be. Love is indelible, severe, earnest, merciful. To push forward against the odds is to make history”.
Pain is Beauty presents not so much an auditory experience as it does an encompassing atmosphere with which the listener can surround themselves, a soul-stirring link with infinity.
Pain is Beauty is released through Sargent House on September 2 2013.