​Chelsea Wolfe Uses Noise to Drown the Din of Daily Life on 'Hiss Spun'

The Salem, MA-recorded, Kurt Ballou-produced new album features Troy Van Leeuwen and ISIS's Aaron Turner

Photo by Zohn Mandel

BY Liisa LadouceurPublished Sep 28, 2017

Noise is relative. Some musicians fuss over eliminating crackles and hisses from their work. Chelsea Wolfe built an album from them.
The California singer-songwriter's fifth studio record, Hiss Spun, rumbles and pops. Not to be confused with a noise album (Wolfe says she was more inspired by '90s rock and industrial or drone than pure noise bands), the followup to 2015's more electronic-based Abyss is also full of haunting melody and booming rhythm. It boasts guests — Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen and ISIS vocalist Aaron Turner — but the key collaborator is drummer Jess Gowrie, a former bandmate.
"The catalyst for this album was Jess and I reunited after years of not speaking," explains Wolfe. "It was clear our musical chemistry was still there, and I wanted to write songs with her. My bandmate Ben Chisholm was involved, and we asked Troy to play lead guitar on some songs. [Then] it seemed a shame not to be able to play live, to do more with it all, so it became the beginnings of Hiss Spun."
Recorded last winter in producer Kurt Ballou's studio in Salem, MA, the album features manipulated noises of buckets scraping on concrete, the pages of a Walt Whitman book, a coyote howling outside her home and many more sounds.
"I've always had a strong affinity for the white noise of life and nature, and how it can momentarily drown out the stress and chaos of being alive," she says. "I read something that Carl Sagan said about one percent of radio and TV static being relic sounds from the Big Bang — that kind of blew my mind in a beautiful way. This comforting white noise was connected to our very beginnings. A lot of Hiss Spun is dedicated to that."

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