Oscar W. Küsel ~ The Woods: a visceral descent into the violent nature of metamorphosis

The woods are lovely, dark and deep … well, maybe not these woods.  These are the woods that beckon trick or treaters, the trees possessed by the Kandarian Demon, the wrong turns taken by weary travelers, the path to the gingerbread house, Grandmother’s farm, the cannibals’ lair.  Oscar W. Küsel (or O.W.K.) calls the album a visceral descent into the violent nature of metamorphosis.  When the title is combined with the cover photo, the impression is foreboding  ~ even before a single note has sounded.

The sounds play tricks on the ears like rustles in the night woods.  What seems like nature is not nature; these are not field recordings, but studio phantasms. “Real” or not, the intimidation is immediate.  That is not a bird, don’t follow it into the woods!  Oh well.  We suppose you’re going to pick up that creepy stick doll in the crook of that tree, and see if anyone’s squatting in that old dilapidated house.

The album is presented in two formats: as individual tracks with evocative titles (our favorite:  “And so I fell with the weight of a thousand stars”) or as a continuous mix.  We recommend the latter.  This way, one is never sure when the rain (sorry, electro-acoustic static) will fall, the birds will turn aggressive, the cello will attach itself to the composition like sludge.  Strings swirl like a murmuration of ravens.  Staccato chords arrive like knives.  Voices enter like excited voyeurs.

As the “roots are swallowed by the path,” so are the typical sonic landmarks.  Unable to decipher what is real, the listener enters a mysterious thicket whose thorns seem to puncture the skin with intentional malice.  With no bread crumbs strewn along the path, the only way out is forward: a dubious promise.  Imagine following the savior sound of a river, only to realize that the sound is emanating from a tape recorder hidden beneath the decaying leaves.  Who put the recorder there, and how long ago was it activated?  Are the same invisible people making those whistling sounds?  Who’s there?  And if those aren’t wolves, what are they?

While remaining its own creature, The Woods is pleasingly reminiscent of Mark Korven’s score for The Witch; there’s no relenting, no happy ending.  Percussion rolls like logs and old bones.  The cello seeps with the slow momentum of inevitability.  When only eight minutes remain, a cascade of strings, a crash of sticks.  Call it a pounce.  It’s a fair bet that these travelers did not survive the night: not even a final girl to tell the story and die in the opening scene of the sequel.

This Halloween, be ready to drop your peanut butter cups and run, because even if you choose not to enter these woods, these woods may come hunting for you.  (Richard Allen)

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