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Album Review: CHELSEA WOLFE She Reaches Out To She Reaches Out To She

8.5 Reviewer

Ever since her debut LP – The Grime and the Glow – arrived in 2010, Chelsea Wolfe has positioned herself among the most eclectic and audacious singer/songwriters of her generation. After all, her work typically stretches across multiple genres – neofolk, gothic rock, doom metal, dark ambient, noise rock, experimental, etc. – and touches upon equally challenging and cathartic subject matter. Even if you're not quite sure where she'll go next, you at least know that it'll be characteristically daring and unconventional.

That's definitely the case with She Reaches Out To She Reaches Out To She, Wolfe's fitting yet more cacophonous and wide-ranging successor to 2019's Birth of Violence. With help from a few returning collaborators – multi-instrumentalist Ben Chisholm, drummer Bryan Tulao, and drummer Jess Gowrie – alongside producer Dave Sitek (TV on the Radio) and engineer Shawn Everett (The Killers, Yeah Yeah Yeahs), Wolfe has crafted another fascinating collection full of boisterous, delicate, introspective, and adventurous material.

Expectedly, the cyclical nature of the title relates to the album's themes and purpose, as Wolfe clarifies: "It's a record about the past self reaching out to the present self reaching out to the future self to summon change, growth, and guidance. It's a story of freeing yourself from situations and patterns that are holding your back in order to become self-empowered. It's an invitation to step into your authenticity."

Those sentiments are felt throughout the record, whether filtered through soft and relatively direct contemplations; eruptions of manic mysteriousness; or passages that lie somewhere in-between.

"Whispers in the Echo Chamber" exemplifies that cumulative balance wonderfully, with Wolfe's vulnerable singing and whispers being offset by a sleekly chaotic and unstable arrangement. Throw in some darkly confessional lyricism ("Bathing in the blood of who I used to be / Offering up all my imperfect offerings / Become my own fantasy / Twist the old self into poetry") and you have a chillingly beautiful and erratic opener whose ingenuity and purity demonstrates Wolfe's artistic dexterity.   

That electronic/industrial/pop basis coats several later gems, too. The more straightforward "House of Self-Undoing," for example, evokes Björk and Bat for Lashes as much as it does The Prodigy and Ulver. There's also the nightmarishly abstract "Eyes Like Nightshade" and the bittersweetly symphonic "Everything Turns Blue" to further highlight how mesmerizing and commendable She Reaches Out To She Reaches Out To She's sinister silkiness can be.

Elsewhere, Wolfe prioritizes gloomily gentle vibes. Specifically – and despite its sometimes abrasive percussion and dissonant soundscapes – "Tunnel Lights" is largely a fragile lamentation. Complemented by distressing piano chords, ethereal harmonies, and melancholic observations ("I'm sanctified in my lover's eyes / No way around it / No way to fight / A pull too strong / Don't try to forfeit / The way is through / On tunnel lights"), its powerfulness lies in its reservedness. Subsequent tracks "The Liminal," "Salt," "Dusk," and "Place in the Sun" also work very well as poignantly gothic ballads with inventive production.

With She Reaches Out To She Reaches Out To She, Wolfe continues her reign as perhaps the most disquietly serene singer/songwriter around. Musically and lyrically, it upholds her usual excellence while exploring new tapestries; that said, it's the superb conviction and meticulousness with which she sings that makes each piece intoxicatingly authentic. Even its occasional sameness is a dual-edge sword because it adds thematic cohesion to the journey (allowing the LP to unfold with a central vision rather than as a disconnected batch of tunes). From start to finish, all listeners (especially Wolfe devotees) will surely adore what she's done here.

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