(“Concrete” by Petrels, from the album Haeligewielle, 2011)
“Alone I work
All around me darkness swirls
Of sinking stones.
I will not stop ‘till all these walls have found their cause
As I already mentioned, I found out about Petrels through the Denovali Swingfest, and now, several months later, I have to say that he was really one of the artists that stuck with me the most. So I’ve spent the last few days diving a bit deeper (a fitting choice of words as you will see later on) into his work, and it has been a very worthwhile experience. Under his Petrels moniker, Oliver Barrett releases concept-heavy Drone albums filled with a ton of references to places, events and people, both fictional and real. Not only is it fun to look into those, but they often bring a context to his songs that makes his music that more powerful to me.
Take the album Haeligewielle for example: It’s based around the diver William Walker, who strenghened the foundations of the Winchester Cathedral all by himself when the building was about to bog in peat in 1906. The awesome thing is that Petrels is able to create such a distinct mood with his music (and the carefully woven net of references that are his song titles), such a strong sense of place that you have the feeling you are there with Walker, in the absolute darkness of the cold, silty water. Petrels albums are not so much a clear statement as they are explorations, journeys, tributes to certain events, ideas or characters. But there’s always such a strong passion within his music that his fascination starts to pass on to you. It’s a very strong sort of communication.
The song that I haven’t gotten out of my head for days is “Concrete”, a fluorishing choral piece is the emotional climax of the album to me: It’s the only occasion where Petrels uses lyrics and it hits home. The way the choir sings about Walkers work is so moving, it has such a positive energy, espcially framed by the rest of the album. It’s a song of perseverance and steadiness, and that’s a form of comfort I need right now, for a lot of things are changing right now in my life. The thought that there were (and are) people out there that were that determined is inspiring and comforting to me. A breathtaking piece of music.
For further listening, I recommend you also check out Petrels’ other work: The more dynamic, almost Rock-ish Mima, which deals with the possible future mythology of space travel, and the vast, cold and almost threatening Onkalo, which is mostly about a spent nuclear fuel repository in Finland that is supposed to last 100,000 years, and, of course, the psychological implications of such a thing. It takes a while to get acclimated with his style, you need some time to wrap your mind around it (after all, this Drone-heavy neo Classical Post Rock thing isn’t a style you come across very often) but once you do, it’s honestly so rewarding. So I encourage you to try it out, maybe even twice.