New Music

CHELSEA WOLFE’s Hiss Spun, GODSPEED’s Luciferian Towers: two great atmospheric avant-rock albums out in one day

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Guest review by Albert Ferkl.

On September 19, WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM demonstrated an effective blend of folk and ambient elements on the magnificent black metal release Thrice Woven. Just three days later, GODSPEED and CHELSEA WOLFE came out with equally powerful records showcasing similar influences, proving this an exciting time of the year for lovers of intense experimental music.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor have carved out a place of significance in music history since forming in 1994. Combining the politicized intensity of punk with the intricate explorations of contemporary classical music, they pioneered a unique post-rock sound which often transcends these genres in sheer emotional power. Their sixth studio full-length Luciferian Towers is no deviation from the trend. A deliberate instrumental cry against corruption, coercion and other defects of existing power structures, the album employs folk and drone stylings in equal measure to voice a set of grand political demands. As usual, Godspeed harness a sound that is at once minimal and overwhelming, each song layered with overlapping instrumental lines that coalesce in long climactic passages. They do not reinvent their wheel here, nor do they match the impact of such classics of their discography as 2000’s Lift Your Skinny Fists, and the first track especially seems to me to function better as introduction than a stand-alone piece. Regardless, the closing epic “Anthem for No State” confirms Luciferian Towers another strong addition to the band’s catalogue and impresses in me a yearning to see the band perform live at this point of their career.

Where Godspeed are merely cementing their status as musical innovators, Chelsea Wolfe has taken a leap forward. Her recognition increased greatly with the two-year-old effort Abyss, on which she embraced doom metal influences into her signature gothic folk sound, creating a very dark record that struck a balance between oppressive and vulnerable. Hiss Spun takes this blend further and revs up on precisely what her previous work lacked: diversity. It compares to Abyss in length, yet each track now carries a distinct idea setting it out from the whole. Many of these are the heaviest and most aggressive that Wolfe and her band have ever recorded. Their choruses tend to emerge from dark atmospheric passages to explode into a sort of gothic sludge, bearing little resemblance to her older folk-dominated music. After all, this was recorded at the studio of Kurt Ballou of Converge, a producer renowned for his work in contemporary extreme music. Nevertheless, brutality is achieved here in various ways emphasizing different influences, from the metallic climax of “Vex” featuring growls by Aaron Turner, through relentless hardcore drumming on “Particle Flux”, to the industrial noise seeping into the closing track “Scrape”. Meanwhile, on songs such as “Two Spirit”, Wolfe turns down the volume and returns to a soft and haunting neofolk style that gives more space to her decadently poetic lyrics. In short, Hiss lis her first album to truly explore a whole range of different sounds, and it seems to me that this venture has been rewarded at both ends of the spectrum.

GODSPEED YOU! BACK EMPEROR will be touring Europe this Fall, with an additional duo of Texas shows in December:

13.10.17 Rome, IT Romaeuropa Festival
14.10.17 Rome, IT Romaeuropa Festival
15.10.17 Fribourg, CH Frison
16.10.17 Toulouse, FR Le Bikini
17.10.17 Bordeaux, FR Krakatoa
18.10.17 Rennes, FR Théâtre National de Bretagne
19.10.17 Rouen, FR Le 106
20.10.17 Lyon, FR Le Tobogan
21.10.17 Strassbourg, FR La Laiterie
22.10.17 Lille, FR La Condition publique
23.10.17 Brighton, UK Brighton Dome
25.10.17 Newcastle, UK Boiler Shop
27.10.17 Glasgow, UK O2 ABC
28.10.17 Manchester, UK Albert Hall
30.10.17 Bristol, UK Motion
31.10.17 London, UK Troxy
01.11.17 Brussels, BE Vorst Nationaal / Forest National
02.11.17 Amsterdam, NL Paradiso
03.11.17 Berlin, DE Festsaal Kreuzberg
05.11.17 Hanover, DE Indiego
07.11.17 Paris, FR Elysée Montmartre
16.12.17 Houston, TX Day for Night
17.12.17 Houston, TX Day for Night
21.04.18 Tilburg, NL Roadburn Festival
22.04.18 Tilburg, NL Roadburn Festival

HISS SPUN – Chelsea Wolfe North America tour with YOUTH CODE is kicking off this week. See the dates below:

C W tour

9/28 – Santa Ana, CA – Constellation Room
9/29 – Los Angeles, CA – Amoeba Music Free show 6pm
9/30 – Los Angeles, CA – The Regent – SOLD OUT
10/2 – San Diego, CA – Belly Up
10/3 – Tucson, AZ – 191 Toole
10/4 – Phoenix, AZ – Crescent Ballroom
10/6 – Austin, TX – Paramount Theatre
10/7 – Houston, TX – White Oak Music Hall
10/8 – Dallas, TX – The Kessler
10/10 – Nashville, TN – Exit/In
10/11 – Atlanta, GA – Aisle 5
10/13 – Chapel Hill, NC – Cat’s Cradle
10/14 – Baltimore, MD – Baltimore Soundstage
10/15 – Philadelphia, PA – TLA
10/17 – New York, NY – Irving Plaza
10/19 – Cambridge, MA – The Sinclair
10/20 – Montreal QC – Le National
10/21 – Toronto, ON – The Opera House
10/22 – Detroit, MI – El Club
10/24 – Chicago, IL – Metro Chicago
10/25 – St. Paul, MN – Turf Club
10/27 – Denver, CO – The Bluebird Theater
10/28 – Salt Lake City, UT – Urban Lounge
10/30 – Seattle, WA – Showbox Presents
10/31 – Vancouver, BC – VENUE
11/1 – Portland, OR – Wonder Ballroom
11/3 – Sacramento, CA – Ace Of Spades
11/4 – San Francisco, CA – The Regency Ballroom

GO HERE to see the previous review by the author, DEERHOOF’s Mountain Moves.

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