Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs [VINYL]
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In a way,Chelsea Wolfe is on a journey to the surface of her own music. 2012 finds releasing her first acoustic emanation,titled "Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs". The experience is a secret shared,a side of our heroine rarely seen or heard,and the making was as intimate as it gets: recorded in the woods of Northern California and at Wolfe's L.A. home,co-produced by her bandmate Ben Chisholm,with players Ezra Buchla (viola),Andrea Calderon (violin) and Daniel Denton (bass).
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Listening to this album though, I couldn't help but fall in love with her voice. It has a mysterious quality, and then sometimes an eerie one (As on "Hyper Oz"). Her voice is downright powerful throughout the entire album, including her vocal melodies. The violin work is exceptional here too.
I'm going to rate each song from 1 to 5, with 5 being the best.
"Flatlands" is a great opening track for this album. Very much written to be a single. Starts off slow, builds upon itself, and then becomes a beautiful amalgamation of art. 5/5
"The Way We Used To"
This is one of the songs that features a vocal melody. Honestly, it just works. One of the best tracks on this album by far. 5/5
This tracks features that mysterious quality that I spoke of. A very calming song, and the exchange between the slightly dissonant violin and her voice make for a very pleasant listen. 4.5/5
This song has you flowing with the rhythm. Once again, you hear a play back and forth between Chelsea and the violin, but the violin is much more prominent here, and much more beautiful. 5/5
"I Died With You"
All vocal. A very odd song, but sets up for the next track well. 4/5
An intriguing song, took me a couple of listens to get used to it. Not as easy to listen to as the other tracks though. Just too dissonant. 3/5
"Our Work Was Good"
Good song. Another one that features a vocal melody. 5/5
I skipped past this song the first few listens through. I have a sort of appreciation for it now, though. Honestly, it evens out the melodic nature of the rest of the album. I enjoy how dark and dissonant it. It has this haunting quality to it. It is very hard to explain. Her eerie voice in the background throughout the track just gives a certain...something. 4/5
This song is so out of place here that I debate regularly whether or not to delete it off my computer. I want to like it, but the narrative just doesn't make any sense, despite being one of the few songs on the album that has coherent lyrics. Honestly, this song just sounds bad. 1/5 Abysmal. I think this song was just thrown in as an afterthought.
I enjoyed both bonus tracks. "Gold" was especially good. "Virginia Woolf Underwater" is another haunting track.
Overall, I think this album is exceptional. This definitely goes down as one of my favorite acoustic albums I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. If you enjoy acoustic, artsy music, then I suggest you pick up this album. If not, well you might want to give it a try anyway.
No one phrases it like Chelsea, no one; she is exquisite on every level that music can afford the experience. This collection is like the sound track for a movie about a great songwriter on a salient journey that others can only stand to the side and watch.
Ms. Wolfe sentiments and sensibilities are fairly down to earth. She speaks to common things and common experiences or, more precisely, she speaks to the foundational assumptions of common things and experiences. The striped down and under developed quality of 'Unknown Rooms' (for an acoustic work, though, it's rather dense) makes this more apparent than in her previous and masterfully realized outing. She weighs in obliquely, though sometimes almost manifesto style (track 1), with her own observations, sentiments, ideals, etc.. Her lyricism reflects a sensitive and inquisitive manner and one that I find reassuring. Well, most of the time I find it reassuring!
Ms. Wolfe has an overarching appreciation for the organic, real and intimate, as she perceives them, and she is fascinated by the ubiquity of impermanence and, what's more, the consequentiality of impermanence (what she summarizes as "apocalypse"). Speaking to the former, a Buddhist co-worker of mine once proclaimed, with the equanimity of a glacier, "We all die; it's no big deal". That also works partially for a Jew like me but, it seems, not for Ms. Wolfe. This "Vanitas" aspect of her dilemma lends itself to being a phase. As to the consequentiality of impermanence (i.e. all that we ever have is this moment) part, that is an insight that is best cherished and nurtured. The tracks 'Sunstorm' & 'Virginia Woolf Underwater' are both studies in impermanence.
Now to the scary-Goth-doom thing. I get why some variation of that word string keeps being associated with Ms. Wolfe though she doesn't wash out in any of those ways in my mix. If she did, I would dismiss her as avant-garde protest and, well, I wouldn't be here now. Clearly, she is less than pleased with much of the status quo. Things are just as messy as they are a mess; be it the banality of the social reality and/or the insensitivity of how we treat each other. Ms. Wolfe assures me that nothing comes easily though that doesn't mean that she isn't fully invested with hope. Hope and despondency, when they dwell in the same space at the same time, always serve to heighten each other. I'll take her on her word; a sun does shine in her world, and it is just as vital to her as it is to the plants.
Ms. Wolfe's use of the theatrical, surreal, and vaguely off-putting are, from time to time, a performance of heavy handed dark matter cliché. These let downs are slight and, as a rule, her expression via the visual is deft and full of efficient little stories. As she matures as a soul and as an artist, and she is maturing very quickly (!), her visual art "props" will evolve and change as well. I suspect that her artistry as a musician will always be married to her ideation in the visual arts. Maybe it's all just her way of constructing privacy and perspective while you and she have a pleasant chat? It's an introvert thing, you know.
"Remember, remember, this is now, and now, and now. Live it, feel it, cling to it. I want to become acutely aware of all I've taken for granted."