‘She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out To She” sounds like a repetitive, devilish tongue-twister.  My brain feels addled after attempting to repeat it ten times! However, it ideally reflects the album’s theme of interaction between past, present and future selves, changing patterns of behaviour and escaping toxic situations. Even played at a volume to show consideration for the next-door neighbour’s sensibilities, it is an incredibly physical record. Wolfe’s extraordinary voice, sounding like  PJ Harvey taking her darkest, gothic yearnings to their extreme conclusion, takes centre stage. It blends the folk elements of her most recent album, 2019’s ‘The Birth of Violence’, with the heaviness of 2017’s ‘Hiss Spun’ and the industrial leanings of 2015’s ‘Abyss’. The production from Dave Sitek adds so much more, making it Wolfe’s most sonically thrilling record, the ten tracks containing reminders of how his band, TV On The Radio, were able to mangle and manipulate rock music into a new and original form.

The warped electronics that begin the album’s opening track, ‘Whispers in the Echo Chamber’ are an arresting introduction. It is a song about self-acceptance and cutting cords from those that hold you back. With its heavy bass and pulsing electronics, it undergoes numerous dynamic shifts: she whispers “that shit does not define me anymore” before the song explodes into guitar riffs, bass growls and yelps.

‘House of Self-Undoing’ references getting sober and being able to enjoy emotional extremes which are enhanced without the “joy thief”. It is always welcome to hear songs where alcohol is put forward as a numbing and ultimately destructive drug. For too long, there has been a tedious rock’n’roll celebration of excess whereas a clear head enables creativity and good decision making. Wolfe’s voice has always had a cathartic quality, powerful and emotive, and it has rarely sounded better, stretching over fast-paced guitars with electronic jolts.

‘Everything Turns Blue’ exams the impact of a toxic relationship and celebrates making a break from it, asking “what do I have to do to heal you out of me?” The waves of synths give it a warmth, a sense of emerging from darkness. With its slower pace and glitchy electronics, ‘Tunnel Lights’ is a song that draws the listener in to its celebration of actually living rather than existing.

‘The Liminal’ is about standing on the void, the threshold, how it can be scary to let go of things that hold you back and the rewards of finding peace. It is a song of quieter moments and the gradual build-up of sound until she can defiantly proclaim, “I nurtured me, I came back stronger / I’m in your dreams, I’m in your song / now everybody sings along.

The disruptive beats of ‘Eyes Like Nightshade’ propel a song inspired by the use of a tincture made with Belladonna (deadly nightshade) in Victorian England to dilate the pupils. There is delight in the way Wolfe’s controlled voice weaves her way through the song, coaxing and enticing but fragile. A more commonplace substance is recognised in the next song, ‘Salt’, recognising its presence in the sea, tears and memories.

In its call into the innermost, to “grieve and redefine”, ‘Unseen World’ has contorted beat patterns and an epic sweep to the synths and deepest bass. ‘Place in the Sun’ is clearly not a celebration of Channel 4’s continental property porn programme but finding home in the most important place, comfort and safety in her own body in a world that thrives on creating insecurity. Gaining joy again from singing, it ends with the request, “let me fly, fly, fly”. The album concludes with ‘Dusk’, a mythical love song with angels and vampires, a brooding piece that eventually allows guitarist Bryan Tulao to let rip, a finale that most recalls her earlier work.

With ‘She Reaches Out To She Reaches Out To She’, Wolfe has created her finest album, both musically and lyrically, with its deep, thoughtful and positive themes.

Chelsea Wolfe: She Reaches Out To She Reaches Out To She – Out 9th February 2024 (Loma Vista)

Wolfe – Whispers In The Echo Chamber (Official Music Video) (youtube.com)

I was editor of the long-running fanzine, Plane Truth, and have subsequently written for a number of publications. While the zine was known for championing the most angular independent sounds, performing in recent years with a community samba percussion band helped to broaden my tastes so that in 2021 I am far more likely to be celebrating an eclectic mix of sounds and enthusing about Made Kuti, Anthony Joseph, Little Simz and the Soul Jazz Cuban compilations as well as Pom Poko and Richard Dawson.