Cor. Bit awesome this. Released as a beautifully- created vinyl artefact on Tartaruga records back in January– just 200 copies folks – this release from Oliver Barrett, the artist otherwise known as Petrels really piles on the damp, claustrophobic unease.
The two long pieces that make up the record were created from Barrett’s personal archive of ancient tapes, occasionally augmented with cello and other stuff. These are blurry, rumbling collages, mangled and manipulated so that the original sound sources are unrecognisable, but that build a slow but unstoppable sense of awful tension.
You know those really freaky final seconds of the first Blair Witch Project film? Well, Woodsmoke exudes a similar feel of grainy terror as its two pieces creep out towards us in the chilly dusk.
Side A starts unassumingly enough, with the rumbling ambience of a processed field recording, a town perhaps. Then an insistent, squeaking cello starts up. It’s almost inaudible at first, but, once you do, it gets you feeling right edgy, boy.
There are murky, slowed-down vocal samples and other noises too – it’s like making a tape recording of an empty room, only to play it back and hear a whole lot of something you didn’t expect. By the end of the piece, these spectres have gone too, and all we hear is a decayed rumbling.
Side B starts with mangled cello tapes, its dissonant scrapes pitched up until they like a cat as a musique concrete-style drone slowly fades in, heavy with dread and doom. A whole lot less subtle this one, Barrett dials up the hysteria as the cello’s yowls are transformed into something resembling a kind of suction tool.
Meanwhile the drones teeter on the edge of insanity and loops from what sounds like an eastern European radio station fade in like snatches of a half remembered nightmare, before everything in drowned in a furious storm of industrial static.
This is a fantastic, eerie and immersive record, well worth grabbing if there are any left. Barrett has made sure I won’t be going down to the woods today – nor any time in the near future.