Editors' pick

Chelsea Wolfe

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Editorial Review

A gentle romantic interlude
By Mark Jenkins
Friday, January 25, 2013

Although Chelsea Wolfe’s latest album, “Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs,” doesn’t make a big noise, it isn’t as unadorned as its subtitle suggests. There are passages featuring only the California singer’s voice and guitar, echoing in what sounds like an empty room. But Wolfe is often joined by other musicians who add violin, viola, drums and even synthesizer. She also sometimes multi-tracks her voice so it sounds like an entire choir.

If not entirely acoustic, “Unknown Rooms” is much gentler than Wolfe’s previous album, 2011’s “Apokalypsis.” That collection was dark and clamorous, with a strong scent of doom. The singer continues to take most of her material at a funeral-march pace, and this album includes glum titles such as “I Died With You.” But that’s one of many numbers that layers wisps of vocalese into clouds of angelic sound -- stark yet lovely.

However forlorn, these are love songs. Romance may be notable for its absence in “The Way We Used To,” and “Boyfriend” (the only tune here that Wolfe didn’t write) reprises the bombast of “Apokalypsis.” But ballads such as “Flatlands” are straightforward and tender.

“I need your arms wrapped hard around me,” Wolfe sings, forsaking goth-rock theatricality for a folkie directness that’s even more dramatic.