Chelsea Wolfe: She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She

$65.99

With a coil of black hair always in her eyes, Chelsea Wolfe is a sibylline force with a voice to match. For the 40-year-old goth rocker—a self-described witch and native Californian, though you’d never guess the latter from her shell-pale skin—her earthly occupation as singer-songwriter has meant making singular Bauhaus-goes-folk music and, too often, drinking to excess, although that habit predated her singing; in interviews, she remembers being 11 years old with a 40 in her hand.

She quit alcohol in 2021, after releasing 2019’s Birth of Violence and before her soundtrack for the scary sexploitation movie X, a collaboration with producer Tyler Bates, came out in 2022. Beneath its shocking darkness, the Ti West-directed feature is about the persistence of desire. She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She, Wolfe’s seventh album and first for Loma Vista Recordings, likewise clears away dirt and empty bottles to find hope. With production from TV on the Radio founding member Dave Sitek, Wolfe zeroes in on the clearest message in her discography yet: surrender your heart to the unknown. Where most of Wolfe’s albums have shown anxious restraint, She Reaches Out yields to hair-in-the-wind havoc with distorted layers of guitar, drum pads, electronics, and piano, a more confident blend of Wolfe’s metal melancholy.

Occasionally, the unknown is monstrous. Wolfe has always demonstrated a predilection for gross and terrible things, including on the particularly sludgy 2017 album Hiss Spun, which abounds in bloody angels, gashes, and groans. Outside of music, Wolfe’s dreams are full of heavy black shadows—nearly every night since childhood, she has been gnawed by sleep paralysis, which can freeze your body and fill your room with imaginary demons. Lyrics on She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She offer a guiding hand through this terror, promising that you can coexist with the monsters. “The Liminal”—sort of a dusty, creepy, eight-legged version of Succession’s theme song—dares you to. As longtime collaborator and multi-instrumentalist Ben Chisholm plunks out a sorry piano melody, Wolfe hisses like a sorceress in the woods, watching you from 10 feet away: “All you ever wanted was the liminal/All you left behind was your exoskeleton.”

Wolfe is good at pointing you closer to strangeness; its pull lies in the all-consuming guitar/synth torrential downpour that soaks the entire album. Sometimes, She Reaches Out drowns in it: Songs like the Lorn-ish dark synth track “Tunnel Lights” feel like they’re marching awkwardly, not forebodingly, wearing all those soggy, indistinguishable layers. More often, though, Wolfe likes indulging in half-seconds of silence, a blink of sunlight before guitarist Bryan Tulao comes in to blow a bullet hole through the mirror. This approach, another way Wolfe honors intangible, in-between space, is most potent on groaning closer “Dusk.” Everything except a misty drum pad drops out for Wolfe to sing a vow—“I would go through the fire/To get to you”—and then, one breath later, Tulao delivers a deliciously simple, traffic-stopping solo.

But Wolfe’s voice comes before any explosion or ectoplasm. Other albums, especially her lo-fi 2010 debut, The Grime and the Glow, shove her glinting voice under industrial whine, forcing it into sleepy Grouper modesty. She Reaches Out, alternatively, places Wolfe at the top of the mix. Even when a vampiric guitar shakes fresh mud over the propulsive “Unseen World,” there’s no mistaking her hypnotic repetition of the song title. The clarity of her voice is most appropriate for this album, which encourages trusting yourself enough to surrender to uncertainty.

“I’ve used a lot of imagery of this egg for this album, this sort of mysterious, large egg that I’m nurturing and protecting,” Wolfe said in a recent interview with The Line of Best Fit. “And the idea is that I don’t actually know what’s in this egg, I just know that there’s potential in there.” It’s the plot of 1985 Japanese art film Angel’s Egg, in which a bed-headed girl navigates a violent industrial society with a massive white egg tucked under her petticoat. Wolfe, likewise, tiptoes over cracks in the sidewalk to prove that she can do it. “I have made it this far/To live this life,” she breathes on the glass-fragile ballad “Place in the Sun. That same type of blind faith lives in you, too, if you close your eyes and let it glow.

Pitchfork

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Description

Tracklisting:

  1. Whispers in the Echo Chamber
  2. House of Self-Undoing
  3. Everything Turns Blue
  4. Tunnel Lights
  5. The Liminal
  6. Eyes Like Nightshade
  7. Salt
  8. Unseen World
  9. Place in the Sun
  10. Dusk

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