The Heartwood Institute – Secret Rites

[Reviewed by Peter Marks]

Right. Here I am in 2018, writing about the music of Jonathan Sharp, wild.

On his latest offering we find all manner of sonic tricks and trademarks; not the least of which are those long, droning notes he has always enjoyed stretching out across what he writes. Numerous spoken word samples appear and I can’t help but think back to the final album he did as Bio-Tek, specifically the opening track on it which was propelled by a nicely morbid vocal snippet. Don’t take any of this as criticism, its more astonishment that he’s been this focused for this long.

There are the other projects he’s worked under, all of which have begun to fade in the consciousness of the music buying public but this one he does now has more refinement than any of them could ever muster. For one thing, his songwriting abilities have become truly impressive. Back in the 90s when I first heard of him, there was no way he could compose at this level; another thing to note is that all the anger and aggression are gone, we’re instead given grandiose almost whimsical works to parse.

Menace slowly burns beneath, however, a smoldering ember of enmity.

It’d be easy to draw continued parallels but I’ve never been one for simple explanations, neither is he. He has a slew of releases out under this name -more than any other he’s worked under- and they all contain varying shades of detailed synthesis combined with an ear for melodies nobody else could work out. To refer to this as background music is missing the point entirely, I had to spend quite a few days picking ‘Secret Rites’ apart and have come to the conclusion that what he’s out to achieve is something akin to his still-born Freezone project.

Our sage taps into a similar vein, so to speak, but it is darker so much darker; its gorgeously baleful here in this little world he lets his listeners visit. A mute audience of specters regard us coldly, the music being all that separates you and I from their unsound urges.

Others have attempted what he’s doing but have not been able to maintain the intensity and infectiousness which are the trademarks of The Heartwood Institute. “Diana” is all the proof you need of what Sharp’s trying to encapsulate and if that one doesn’t seal the deal for you then check out “Aradia”. This record will get inside your head, moving through layer after layer of your being until it rests directly on the pulse of the subconscious.

The Heartwood InstituteSecret Rites
LP/Digital 2018

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