Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past couple of years, you’ve likely come across a series of posts featuring the California-born and-based singer/songwriter guitarist and JOVM mainstay artist Chelsea Wolfe. And as you may recall, with the release of her four previously released albums. 2010’s The Grime and the Glow, 2011’s Apokalypsis, 2013’s Pain Is Beauty and 2015’s Abyss, Wolfe received attention across the blogosphere and elsewhere for an imitable sound that draws from gothic rock, folk, neo-folk, electronica and metal with a moody and cinematic quality — while thematically focusing on burrowing beneath the world’s brutality, ugliness, messiness and hurt to get at a profound sense of beauty.
Wolfe’s recently released sixth full-length album Hiss Spun is reportedly inspired by a Henry Miller quote — “What I want is to open up. I want to know what’s inside me. I want everybody to open up. I’m like an imbecile with a can opener in his hand, wondering where to begin — to open up the earth. I know that underneath the mess everything is marvelous. I’m sure of it.” And unsurprisingly, the material finds the renowned California-born and-based singer/songwriter and guitarist adopting Miller’s quest to become truly empowered by embracing the complete, messy self and to control the tumult within one’s soul — in the hopes of reigning in the chaos of the surrounding world.
Ironically, as Wolfe explained in press notes, when she started working on the album, she had initially wanted to write escapist music with songs about being in your body and getting free; but “you’re just bombarded with constant bad news, people getting fucked over and killed for shitty reasons or no reason at all, and it seems like the world has been in tears for months, and then you remember that it’s been fucked for a long time; it’s been fucked since the beginning. It’s overwhelming and I have to write about it.” Of course, as you may recall, Hiss Spun was recorded by Kurt Ballou in Salem, MA earlier this year, during a brutally (and perhaps prototypical) New England winter, several major upheveals in Wolfe’s personal life, her coming to terms with years of conflicting feelings of vulnerability, anger and self-destruction, and a dark family history that has managed to weigh heavily in her life. And as a result, the material on Hiss Spun may arguably be the heaviest, darkest and most forceful material she has written to date. Additionally, long-time collaborator Ben Chisholm contributes swaths of sound collages recorded while Wolfe and her backing and were on tour — the rumble of street construction while they were on tour in Prague; the howl of a coyote outside Wolfe’s home; the scrape of machinery on a floor of a warehouse at a down-and-out friend’s workplace, as well as samples from the bomb blasts of the Enola Gay, the shrieks and mating calls of primates, the fluttering pages of a book of Walt Whitman’s poetry are all manipulated and seamlessly placed within the music.
With the release of the album’s first two singles — the brooding Tool and A Perfect Circle meets PJ Harvey-like cathartic, emotional purge of “16 Psyche” and the atmospheric and moody “Offering,” Wolfe has managed to reveal herself as a restlessly chameleon-like artist and songwriter, actively pushing her sound to new directions while crafting material that possesses a fearless, unvarnished honesty. And the album’s latest single “Spun” continues in the same vein as its predecessors as Wolfe and her backing band pair enormous power chords, some dexterous and blistering guitar work and pummeling drumming in a slow-burning, sludgy dirge — but Wolfe’s ethereal crooning and wailing brings an plaintive and urgent yearning to the song.
Directed by Wolfe and shot in Sacramento, CA, the video is a dark, sweaty, yet sensual fever dream that manages to have an empowering quality as its female leads — Wolfe and pole dancer, Felicia Drake possess an cool, self-assuredness, although Drake in many ways is a siren through a tense and fucked up journey through one’s own memories and dreams. And as a result, the video manages to have a lingering, almost sickening quality of life’s very real ghosts.