Chelsea Wolfe is a California-born and-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, who with the release of 2010’s The Grime and the Glow, 2011’s Apokalypsis, 2013’s Pain Is Beauty and 2015’s Abyss received attention across the blogosphere for a sound that meshes elements of gothic rock, folk, neofolk, electronica and metal, and for material that thematically dug underneath the world’s ugliness, messiness and hurt to get at a profound beauty underneath. Because of its cinematic and moody quality, her music has been featured in the promotional material for several TV series, including Game of Thrones, Fear the Walking Dead and How to Get Away with Murder.
Wolfe’s 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 world around them. However, as Wolfe explains in press notes, she had initially wanted to write some sort of escapist music with songs that were 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.”
The album, which was recorded by Kurt Ballou in Salem, MA during the beginning of this year was also inspired by a brutally cold New England winter, several major upheveals in Wolfe’s personal life, as well as the Californian singer/songwriter and guitarist coming to terms with years of conflicting feelings of vulnerability, anger and self-destruction, an dark family history that has weighed heavily upon her and 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.
The overall effect was to be a cathartic emotional purge and as you’ll hear on “16 Psyche,” the latest single off Hiss Spun, the song while managing to sound as though it were inspired by Tool and A Perfect Circle, complete with pummeling drumming and roaring distortion-heavy power chords and an antehmic hook possesses a palpable aching yearning and broiling, feral, fury at its core that reminds me quite a bit of PJ Harvey.
Directed by Zev Deans, the recently released video for “16 Psyche” is deeply inspired by late 90s and early 00s alt rock and metal videos and features a cameo by Queens of the Stone Age’s Troy Van Leeuwen, who appeared in similar videos of the era, and fittingly the video consists of dark, foreboding imagery of Wolfe in a straitjacket, being carted off as though she were Hannibal Lecter, Wolfe and her backing band performing the song in a smoke machine-filled studio dressed entirely in black and more. As a boy and teenager, who was obsessed with watching MTV, just watching the video brings back a ton of memories — Marilyn Manson’s “The Beautiful People” anyone?