The current musical landscape is littered with bands, duos, etc that are sucking on the shriveled up teats of the 80s/90s goth crossover/shoegaze-craze, as if they were the first to discover the Jesus & Mary Chain and reverb. Unfortunately, most of the original wave of these frumpy downcasts produced the same boring turds over and over again until the NME found something else to rub their dicks all over. Now I'm not saying that these bands weren't doing something cool and artistically viable, it's just that the course was run when it was run and rehashing the same fucking Cocteau Twins cliches over and over and over became stale and predictable. That's what happens in the world of popular music; that's why musicians are forced to try to reinvent the rock and roll wheel every half decade or so. See, in 2006, everybody was into this guy named Neil Young (ever heard of him?) and cranking out mushy meandering guitar pabulum at a fantastic clip. Each review I read cited "Harvest," and the "hypnotic krautrock rhythms," and other such hogwash. But fuck, that was like a million years ago! Wooden Shjips? Who?
Well, it's time to move ahead! By going backwards! The eighties/nineties are the new sixties/seventies; now it's all echoey percussion, nonexistent songwriting, and vocals awash in reverb (better to disguise vocalists who didn't bother to learn how to sing). This stuff cannot even be considered in the style/substance debate; most of it contains neither. And for fuck's sake, don't get me started on the cover "art"... I'm old enough remember the eighties, and they weren't that great. All this fetishization of New Wave (cold wave, Cold Cave) is rather disturbing. I know rock music has never really been a bastion of originality, but c'mon, it doesn't seem like anyone's even trying anymore. But what's this? Here to rescue me from this white (brown?) water rafting trip down the river of turds is a lady named Chelsea Wolfe, whose underexposed Ἀποκάλυψις (Apocalypse) serves as a reminder that not all music that looks to the past has to be shamelessly derivative and numbingly dull. It's like Ms. Wolfe actually paid some heed to carving her own unique niche among her lesser-inspired peer group, and in the process crafted a record that outstrips all of these floor-looking echo-happy posers. It's rather refreshing to hear some guts splayed all over a recording as opposed to the bloodless douchebaggery that so often these days passes for music.
So first off, Wolfe can sing. Wow! She's got many of the same influences as her peers: some yearning Elizabeth Fraser /Hope Sandoval-y vocalese, and an oft-doomy backing group that at times mines the spare, visceral "Dry" era rhythm section of PJ Harvey. But unlike many of the bands that follow a similar path, Wolfe's got a heck of a talent for composition. These tracks don't simply ape their influences; they take the basic framework and re-kajigger them into something that sounds fresh and thrilling ("Movie Screen", "Pale on Pale"). I suppose you could compare her to contemporaries such as Zola Jesus and Marissa Nadler (both of whom, for the record, I like just fine) but I frankly don't think they're in the same league. This is mostly due to the arrangements and playing, which are fucking ace. Ace! It's slow and sludgy at times, a terrifically desolate glacier of impending dread, and at others lilting and uplifting in a bleary-eyed kind of way that makes you want to stare at the sun until your eyes burn out of your head, loving every second of the sweet searing pain. Some people call her "goth" but those people are dicks. This shit may be prime depresso-snowdrift music, but calling it goth is doing it a horrible disservice. The bloodcurdling screams she lets loose at the end of "Pale on Pale" would scare the pantaloons off of all the jerks who are boringly recreating Siouxsie for the new uninformed generation (what's with these fucking kids these days?!)
OK, so the record drags in places ("The Wasteland," "Mer" ) but even these not-so-awesome tracks contain some interesting instrumentation, and you forget all that when songs such as "Moses" and "Friedrichshain" jump up and rip your face off. She's got another album I haven't heard, but rest assured I'll be hearing it as soon as fucking possible. "Apocalypse" is prime winter headphone fare, perfect for this unceasingly snowy winter Fan-fucking-tastic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And an awesome album cover to boot.