Often, the story behind the music can amplify the music’s power. Such is the case with Wolf Larsen’s debut, “Quiet at the Kitchen Door.” Following a surgical accident in 2003, Larsen, (known to the outside world as Sarah Ramey), found herself locked in battle with a debilitating and undiagnosable disease. Despite an exhaustive search for a cure and alternative treatments, the disease continued to plague Larsen.
As many have in the face of hardship, Larsen turned to music for therapy and escape. It started with Larsen teaching herself the songs of Leonard Cohen, then performing at open mic nights in San Francisco. Finally, she began writing her own music, taking her despair, her illness and her bevy of emotions and molding it into the gorgeous catharsis that is “Quiet at the Kitchen Door.”
Larsen’s debut is many things; seductive, slow, hauntingly personal, sorrowful yet also hopeful. It’s deliberate in its pacing. No song is really noticeably faster than another, save perhaps for “Wild Things,” which is really only faster by comparison. And yet, the listener is never bored by the tempo. The album never feels as if it’s droning along from one song to the next. It, in a way, makes the songs feel more like movements, all of which are carried by Larsen’s alluring vocals.
Backed by an acoustic guitar, in addition to a string and horn section, Larsen’s voice is slightly husky and wintry, not to mention completely arresting. Truly, it’s a voice that would stun a raucous audience into attentive silence. In some songs, such as the opener “Kitchen Door” and “No One’s To Blame,” her voice even sounds fragile, as if the weight of the emotions and the experiences entrenched in the lyrics threaten to break her vocal chords. That delicacy is heard not just in her voice, but in the instrumentation as well. Larsen plucks her guitar strings gently, softly, while the horns, rather than announce royalty, whisper, for fear of ruining the melodious trance.
Yet even a light bulb, easily shattered, can prove resilient. On “Jedi,” Larsen sings:
The hero she is sleeping
A Jedi Princess Keeping
A sword inside a song
She is the grimmest reaper reaping
These songs are Larsen’s weapons, her way of not only expressing, but fighting that which she doesn’t even fully understand. In her fight to survive and understand her own battle, Larsen is also fighting the battles of others. 15% of the album’s proceeds goes to The Girl Effect, and other organizations that invest in the education of girls worldwide.
“Quiet at the Kitchen Door” is a journey through unimaginable emotional and physical pain, but also the hope that persists despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles.