PETRELS - Haeligewielle / All Things In Common

Petrels - Haeligewielle

7 songs
50:21 minutes
***** ****

Petrels - All Things In Common

2 songs
19:14 minutes
***** ****


Some albums are instant pleasers, but I have to admit that when I first found myself fast-listening through Haeligewielle (in order to find a pick for my radio show), I was left flabbergasted. I didn’t know what to make of this seemingly strange music. Then I decided to give it a closer inspection, and it didn’t take long to completely win me over.

Petrels is the solo project of Oliver Barrett who is otherwise a member of Bleeding Heart Narrative, a band I have never heard from. His first album Haeligewielle consists of seven mostly long tracks that expertly combines elements of drone, ambient, post rock and even sprawling Americana into something that although allowing you to recognise the different styles still ends up as something completely unique. The album starts with the eight minute long After Francis Danby, a piece that truly takes its time building up momentum. At first it is offering a few minutes of ominous drones before a haunting piano melody creeps in that eventually creates a cascading rhythm. The following Silt is only half as long, but no less hypnotising with its incredibly distorted guitar sound and an organ bass line. You will notice quite early on that there are few percussive elements within the music. Rhythm must be made out by the often distorted sounds consisting of electric guitar and assorted electronics. The amazing thing is that Barrett is able to conjure fragile beauty even out of the most abrasive parts, like for instance the second half of Canute which is basically utter noise but still hides a mesmerising melancholic melody. Concrete is one of the few vocal tracks which has a beginning that reminds me somehow of A Silver Mount Zion. Some motifs of that track are repeated in the concluding quarter hour long masterpiece William Walker Strengthens The Foundations, whose end is playing around with bit-sized loops to create a truly crazy rhythmic experience that made me think of Dan Deacon.

Haeligewielle is a very special item that you can enjoy 100%, provided you give it your fullest attention. And if you feel after its fifty minutes length yearning for more, there is some really good news: Petrels also released the ten-inch vinyl record All Things In Common (which is available as a free download on the record label’s MP3 shop) with two ten minute tracks. Thomas Muntzer starts with a threatening soundscape before halfway through it turns into an uplifting drone piece. If that sounds to you like an oxymoron, I beg you to listen to it. The flipside contains Leonora Christine, an unusually rhythmic piece showing off yet another unexpected but highly pleasant side of Petrels.

If you expected this freebie to recycle lesser material, you will be proven wrong. In some ways, All Things In Common is a more approachable record, even though Haeligewielle is ultimately more rewarding in its richness of sound. Both do deserve a nine point rating. Petrels may use ingredients from genres that all too often have ended up in generic formulation, but Oliver Barrett has the rare genius to cook up something entire unprecedented. Highly recommendable!

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