Douglas Recommends: “Flatlands” by Chelsea Wolfe 

I return to Chelsea Wolfe’s music as I do certain books whose passages elude yet reveal their mystery with every revisit. In my memory, there are different versions of myself that revolve around Chelsea Wolfe’s music. Her lyrical poetic images and gothic dreamscapes serve as an anchor to a mosaic of memories from all those different moments in my life.

I want flatlands
I never cared about money and all its friends
I want flatlands.

I saw Chelsea Wolfe live at the Music Hall of Williamsburg when a friend bailed. I went alone but ended up connecting with a friend who also happened to be there alone. Together, we saw Chelsea. She looked just like she did in photos, with dark clothes, black hair, expressive, shadowy eyes, and striking tattoos. Her sound was heavy and post-industrial, but super gothic, darkly Romantic, and with poetic dreams of magic. Yet when she spoke in between songs, she was soft-spoken, not shy, but cool and calm.

I want flatlands
I don’t want precious stones
I never cared about anything you’ve ever owned

I first heard “Flatlands” after watching an episode of Parts Unknown up in Woodstock with my mom towards the end of 2017. In a hotel by the woods, we watched the episode where Anthony Bourdain visited Seattle and chilled with Mark Lanegan. I liked Mark Lanegan’s music so much that I looked him up and soon learned that he did a version of “Flatlands” with Chelsea Wolfe.

I want flatlands
I want simplicity
I need your arms wrapped hard around me

“Flatlands” by Chelsea Wolfe, with acoustic melodies, percussive thumping strings, and expressive, darkly emotional singing, brought me ease through its tranquility. The sense of yearning for flatlands, and simplicity, made me feel peace, and got me in touch with my own fantasies of wandering to far off places. The strings built and built, stirring in me a realization of feelings that mattered. It still does.

I want open plains and scattered trees
I want flower fields
I want salty seas

I want flatlands

I met someone before going to Woodstock, and through Parts Unknown and Chelsea Wolfe we kept in touch. I started to experience that rare gift of beginning to understand another. It wasn’t always going to be that way. In February 2018, she told me something that shocked and devastated me. A year later, in an immeasurably different and healthier situation than the year before, I relived pain from the previous year. I was surprised at how weak and powerless the memory made me feel. I talked it out with, among others, my good friend Dr. Kasia.

Soft and steady breeze
bringing scents of lined-up orchard trees
dripping heavy with pears and dancing leaves

I want flatlands
will you go there with me?

I’ve known Kasia for 15 years, half my life. She’s a psychologist, and she told me we don’t know how the anniversaries will affect us, but we can use these moments to reflect upon our growth. Through talking and communicating where before I hadn’t, I had in some way chosen a different path for myself, one where I had not gone before. That gave me hope.

When it’s said in the dark and you know it’s always there

when it’s dead in our heart but your mind is unafraid
when it’s said in the dark and you know it’s never coming back
when it’s there in your heart in your mind you set it free

Now in February 2019, I returned to “Flatlands” like I had to her work previously. Seeking a different kind of emotional solace in Chelsea Wolfe’s music than I had the year before, I was now ready to come to terms with my insecurities and doubts. I remembered yet again what Chelsea Wolfe once said in an interview. “Humans are a glitch,” she said, “a beautiful glitch… embrace it.” I am learning to embrace the glitch in myself and others. And Chelsea Wolfe was right about glitches. They are beautiful.

(Song recommendation by Douglas Menagh)

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