What becomes of a man’s legacy? Stories such as the tale of William Walker shoring up the foundation walls of Winchester Cathedral deserve immortality. From the written records of his life, a Wikipedia entry no less, he sounds like a remarkable man. His story is one of those intriguing tales from yesteryear that doesn’t quite fit into the modern world. Walker worked for 5 years to save the sinking Cathedral, submerged in pitch-black isolation, shifting bags of concrete in a cumbersome 200-pound diving suit. His legend has now been reinforced by the music of Petrels, a solo project from Bleeding Heart Narrative’s Oliver Barrett. Walker is noted as modest man; I’d imagine it would come as quite a shock to him to discover that his legacy has been sustained by a conceptual album of dark drone and ethereal electronic music.
The ebb and flow of the album is excellent, storytelling as pure sensation. Such an epic undertaking must have been quite disorienting from day one, staring down into that silt-flooded black hole in the Earth. But amongst the hazy strings and growling drones there is always a clear focus, and this is the album’s greatest success. Landscape is a fairly common theme with this sort of music, however, the music not only conveys the mass and depth of the stone, earth and water that constantly surrounded him, it captures something of the human element; the futility of Walker’s task and isolated bloodymindedness that he must have had. This is something the history books could never have hoped to recreate. A sort of historical document with a scratch and sniff emotional resonance.