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Chelsea Wolfe

With her striking soprano voice and compelling flair for imagery, Chelsea Wolfe uncovers different shades of darkness on each of her projects. On early albums such as 2011's Apokalypsis, she crafted haunting electric folk songs, but she soon brought other dimensions to her style. She stripped her music to its acoustic bones on 2012's Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs, then fleshed it out with electronics on the following year's Pain Is Beauty. Wolfe's fierce ethereality was a perfect fit for the heavier sounds she explored on later albums like 2017's Hiss Spun, which featured members of Converge and Old Man Gloom. When she returned to eldritch folk on 2019's Birth of Violence and explored the process of rebirth with the hypnotic trip-hop atmospheres of 2024's She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She, Wolfe reaffirmed she could take her music’s gorgeous ache any direction with gripping results. Chelsea Wolfe grew up in Northern California with a father who had a country band and his own home studio, so she was immersed in music at an early age. She began recording herself at age nine on an eight-track recorder given to her by her dad; by the time she was in fourth grade, she knew she wanted to be a singer. During her early years, Wolfe was inspired by artists as diverse as Aaliyah and Fleetwood Mac. As time went on, her influences grew to include Nick Cave, Hank Williams and Townes Van Zandt. In 2006, when she was 21, Wolfe recorded Mistake in Parting, a self-released album of singer/songwriter pop. Disappointed with the results, she took some time to rethink her music. Writing songs on her mother's classical guitar -- which had to be tuned down to compensate for a missing tuning peg -- she developed a distinctively haunted, folky sound. In 2009, when she returned from a three-month tour with a performance artist friend in spaces including old nuclear factories, Wolfe recorded her music with her friends on a portable eight-track. After issuing the limited-edition albums Soundtrack VHS/Gold and Soundtrack VHS II, Pendu Sound Recordings released her official debut album, The Grime and the Glow, in December 2010. Around this time, Wolfe contributed a radically different version of the Strokes' "The Modern Age" to a tribute to the band curated by the website Stereogum, and her song "Moses" was used as the soundtrack to artist/director Richard Phillips' short film Sasha Grey. After moving to L.A., Wolfe recorded her second album, Apokalypsis, in a proper studio, working with musicians including Ben Chisholm, who became her closest collaborator; it was released by Pendu Sound Recordings in August 2011. Her performance at the Roadburn Festival in the Netherlands was captured on September 2012's Live at Roadburn. Wolfe took Chisholm and a few other musicians into the Northern California woods to record Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs, which was released in October 2012 by Sargent House. That year, she recorded several covers of Rudimentary Peni songs as a free download. She later rerecorded these songs with her band at London’s Southern Studios; these sessions became January 2013's Prayer for the Unborn, her contribution to Southern Records' Latitudes EP series. In September 2013, Wolfe returned with the more electronic-leaning Pain Is Beauty, which featured Chisholm as a co-producer as well as the work of longtime bandmembers Kevin Dockter and Dylan Fujioka. It was her first charting album, reaching 22 on the Billboard Heatseeker Albums chart and 25 on the Billboard Folk Albums chart. She then collaborated with King Dude on a pair of split singles and appeared on Russian Circles' fifth album, Memorial. Lone, an hour-long movie directed by Mark Pellington and featuring music from Pain Is Beauty, was released in 2014. For her fourth full-length, August 2015’s Abyss, Wolfe shifted gears again, focusing on the doomiest metal-inspired aspects of her music. Along with Chisholm and Fujioka, her collaborators included producer John Congleton and Russian Circles' Mike Sullivan. Topping the Heatseekers Albums chart in the U.S., the album reached 14 on the U.K. Independent Albums chart. The following year, Wolfe released the single "Hypnos," and she and Chisholm were among the performers at Blood Moon, a series of European collaborative live shows with Converge. That group's Kurt Ballou recorded Wolfe's fifth album, Hiss Spun, in Salem, Massachusetts. Featuring drummer Jess Gowrie -- with whom Wolfe had been in a band years before -- as well as Chisholm, Old Man Gloom's Aaron Turner, and Queens of the Stone Age's Troy Van Leeuwen, the 2017 album was even heavier than its predecessor. Another acclaimed work, the album cracked the Top Ten of Billboard’s Top Hard Rock Albums chart and charted in New Zealand and several European countries. Wolfe then appeared on Myrkur’s 2017 album Mareridt and Deafheaven’s 2018 album Ordinary Corrupt Human Love. After touring in support of Hiss Spun, Wolfe took some time to recharge and write. Revisiting the acoustic sounds of her earliest releases, she teamed with Chisholm and Gowrie to record Birth of Violence, which appeared in September 2019 and reached number five on the Top Independent Albums chart in the U.S. Wolfe spent the next few years working on other projects. These included Mrs. Piss, a hard-hitting duo with Gowrie that released its debut album Self-Surgery in May 2020, and "Anhedonia," a collaboration with Emma Ruth Rundle that arrived in January 2021. A few months later, Wolfe appeared on Xiu Xiu's duets album Oh No and contributed the track "Diana" to the soundtrack to the comic book series Dark Nights: Death Metal. That September, a documentary about the Birth of Violence tour appeared along with "Green Altar" and a cover Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock," both of which were recorded during the album's sessions. Wolfe also performed on Converge's November 2021 album Bloodmoon: I. She collaborated with composer Tyler Bates on the soundtrack to the 2022 slasher film X, which paired her vocals with vintage synthesizers and other 1970s influences. After signing to Loma Vista Recordings, Wolfe issued the September 2023 single "Dusk." Produced by Dave Sitek, the song paired crushing guitars with slow-burning trip-hop beats. It was the first taste of her seventh album, February 2024’s She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She. Working with Chisholm, Gowrie, and Bryan Tulao as well as Sitek, Wolfe traced the inner journey of growth and change with a haunting blend of electronics and heavy riffs.
© Heather Phares /TiVo


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