Every piece of music is composed of the same range of notes. Yet there are infinite arrangements of those notes, leaving so much more to discover and find resonance in, for artists to create the songs and melodies that disarm us. Allowing for that space where, as Leonard Cohen put it, the light gets in. Over the last year, Charlotte Wessels embarked on a solo musical journey to find this space. Having buried herself deep in her Six Feet Under home studio, the former Delain singer and songwriter spent her days and nights writing, performing, and producing an eclectic body of songs that make up her debut album, ‘Tales from Six Feet Under.’ A curious, vibrant, and compelling work drenched in steadfast honesty and ardent humility. Making this stunning debut one of the best works of 2021 thus far.
Throughout, there’s a certain dichotomy. From melancholic, alt-pop songs to synth-infused rock numbers, the commonality lies in the intimacy achieved by Wessels as she hones her own identity as a solo artist with outspoken transparency. Tracks such as “Masterpiece” earn their title. A pop hit with an organic quality that reigns it back from ever sounding computer-generated; here you can feel the fingertips on the fretboard. Similarly, songs such as “Victor” sound alive and awake. As Wessels incorporates tribal drums, alluring harmonies, and string sections, the song becomes all the more impressive when we consider she performs every instrument on this album herself.
Wessels takes risks within the risk of making her debut, and most of them pay off. ‘Afkicken’, finds the singer performing in Dutch, her native language, yet there is an embedded danger that sees it transcend language barriers. Loosely translated, the title refers to “getting clean”, or in this context, removing oneself from a fictionalized, toxic relationship. “Afkicken” emits a whiff of pain that runs through the unsettling bass line, as well as a spooky, seductive vigor from the electricity of synths exploding around it. Unfortunately, not all risks pay off. Wessels conventional cover of Gerald McMann’s Lost Boys theme, “Cry Little Sister”, suggests a safety net this record really doesn’t need. Songs such as the incendiary “FSU (2020)” i.e., F**K *S**T Up, or the moving album closer “Soft Revolution”, another original from Wessels with a haunting, acapella fadeout, show it’s the risks that pay off and that we welcome with open arms.
For many artists, their true voice is rarely the one they speak aloud. Instead, it is humming. A voice behind a voice. One that can sometimes only be summoned by burying oneself six feet under your house, in a home studio as the voice articulates itself. Where the smallest touch can extract beauty and ugliness, can chase, evade or capture ghosts. If you have the heart to do it, sometimes something exceptional can happen. For Charlotte Wessels, something exceptional did. ‘Tales from Six Feet Under’ hosts a collection of songs so emotionally visceral you can feel them on you long after the final note rings out. With ‘Tales from Six Feet Under’, Wessels precocity has been firmly nailed to the mast. Making ‘Tales from Six Feet Under’ an immense joy and Wessels’ an artist we can only hope to hear much more from.