Chelsea Wolfe - American Darkness Tour 2019 w/ Ioanna Gika

Chelsea Wolfe

Ioanna Gika

Ages 18+
Chelsea Wolfe - American Darkness Tour 2019 w/ Ioanna Gika at Mercy Lounge

Chelsea Wolfe has always been a conduit for a powerful energy, and while she has

demonstrated a capacity to channel that somber beauty into a variety of forms, her

gift as a songwriter is never more apparent than when she strips her songs down to

a few key components. As a result, her solemn majesty and ominous elegance are

more potent than ever on Birth of Violence.

There is a core element to Chelsea Wolfe’s music—a kind of urgent spin on

America’s desolation blues—that’s existed throughout the entirety of her career. It

manifested in the lo-fi bedroom recording experiments of her debut album The

Grime and the Glow (2010), the electrified dirges of Apokalypsis (2011) and Hiss

Spun (2017), the electronic embellishments and distorted growl of albums like Pain

is Beauty (2013) and Abyss (2015), and the sparse acoustic arrangements of

Unknown Rooms (2012). At the center, there has always been Wolfe’s woeful longing

and beguiling gravity, though the framework for compositions has continuously

evolved based on whatever resources were available. Her austere beginnings were

gradually bolstered by electronics and filled out with full-band arrangements. The

music became increasingly dense and more centered around live performances. And

while these lush recordings have in many ways magnified her power, the elaborate

renditions create a dichotomy given the private and isolated nature of her art. Her

latest album, Birth of Violence, is a return to the reclusive nature of her earlier

recordings, written and recorded in the solitude of her remote home in Northern


“I’ve been in a state of constant motion for the past eight years or so; touring,

moving, playing new stages, exploring new places and meeting new people—an

incredible time of learning and growing as a musician and performer,” Wolfe says of

the era leading up to Birth of Violence. “But after awhile, I was beginning to lose a

part of myself. I needed to take some time away from the road to get my head

straight, to learn to take better care of myself, and to write and record as much as I

can while I have ‘Mercury in my hands,’ as a wise friend put it.“ Birth of Violence is

the result of this step out of the limelight. The songs stem from humble

beginnings—little more than Wolfe’s voice and her Taylor acoustic guitar. Her

longtime musical collaborator Ben Chisholm recorded the songs on a makeshift

studio and helped fill them out with his modern production treatments and the

occasional auxiliary flourish from ongoing contributors Jess Gowrie (drums) and

Ezra Buchla (viola). While it’s tempting to draw a comparison to Wolfe’s acoustic

collection Unknown Rooms, Birth of Violence is a far cry from the unplugged nature

of that album. Instead, it feels like an exploration of one of Wolfe’s strongest

facets—her ties to the American singer-songwriter tradition.

The album opens with “The Mother Road,” a harrowing ode to Route 66 that

immediately addresses Wolfe’s metaphoric white line fever. It explains the nature of

the record—the impact of countless miles and perpetual exhaustion—and the desire

to find the road back home, back to one’s roots. Songs like “Deranged for Rock &

Roll” and “Highway” offers parallel examinations on the trials and tribulations of her

journeys while the ghostly “When Anger Turns to Honey” serves as a rebuttal to

self-appointed judges. Wolfe sees these ordeals as a part of a musical tradition, and

rather than using her music as a confessional or diary, she tethers her experiences

to age-old themes. She touches upon the original transcontinental travellers

crisscrossing the country on state highways in search of some new kick, the

psychedelic caravans on a mission to Further, and the vagabond busker whose home

is both everywhere and nowhere.

While the record touches upon tradition, it also exists in the present, addressing

modern tragedies such as school shootings in the minor-key lullaby “Little Grave”

and the poisoning of the planet on the dark wind-swept ballad “Erde.” But the

record is at its most poignant when Wolfe withdraws into her own world of

enigmatic and elusive autobiography. Much like Alan Ginsberg’s hallucinatory long-

form poem Howl, the tracks “Dirt Universe” and “Birth of Violence” weave together

specific references from her past into an esoteric overview of the state of mankind.

The songs describe an internal awakening of feminine energy, a connection to the

maternal spirit of the Earth, and a defiant stance against the destructive and

controlling forces of a greedy and hostile patriarchy. Though the lyrical minutiae

remain secret, the overall power of the language and delivery is bound to haunt the

listener with both its grace and tension. In keeping with the general approach of the

album, it thrives by culling from the familiar language of American country and folk

music while setting it within Chisholm’s scenic soundscapes.

Every Chelsea Wolfe album introduces new unorthodox textures and approaches,

and the trajectory of her creative arc has generally aimed for larger and more

imposing sounds, but Birth of Violence deliberately alters that course in favor of a

more intimate atmosphere. “These songs came to me in a whirlwind and I knew I

needed to record them soon, and also really needed a break from the road,” Wolfe

says. “I’ve spent the past few years looking for the feeling of home; looking for

places that felt like home. That was the initial inspiration to record it on our

own—between Ben and I, we had all the tools and instruments to capture what we

wanted to create.” The result of that humble approach yields Wolfe’s most

devastating work to date. Sargent House is proud to offer Birth of Violence to the

world on CD/LP and digital formats on September 13, 2019.

Venue Information:
Mercy Lounge
1 Cannery Row
Nashville, TN, 37203