The Heartwood Institute Returns With ‘Witchcraft Murders’; Listen To “Who Put Bella Down The Wych Elm?”

There were a series of brutal murders that took place in the English countryside back in the early 1940s. A man impaled on his own pitchfork, the remains of a woman found stuffed inside a tree, and clues that led to the possibility these murders were witchcraft-related. What became known as The Lower Quinton & Hagley Wood Murders, these cult-like deaths still remain a mystery to this day. Much speculation and  theorizing have been put to these brutal crimes, and the biggest theory is that these murders were done because the victims were believed to have been witches.

Jonathan Sharp, aka The Heartwood Institute, has created a new album dedicated to these murders and theories called Witchcraft Murders. Sharp’s hazy electronic music is a perfect fit for such a Gothic and macabre corner of UK lore, and what better record label to launch this album than Library of the Occult?

On February 5th, Library of the Occult will drop their first release of 2021, Witchcraft Murders. The Heartwood Institute lays out a dark and propulsive album of hardware and software dread, giving us a swath of Gothic electro doom to soak in for a bit.

Jonathan Sharp has been releasing music as The Heartwood Institute for almost six years now, creating a sweeping collection of releases. His sound is low key, but engaging from the get go. I’m reminded of Pye Corner Audio, Pentagram Home Video, and Boards of Canada, but with a slightly more psychedelic lean. Even touches of Tubeway Army are evident in the early EPs. But with each release Sharp honed The Heartwood Institute into a brooding dark electro sound, or “hauntronica”, as he’s dubbed his musical trip.

Witchcraft Murders sounds like the album he’s been building up to for the past six years, mixing the down tempo grooves with static ghosts, occult leanings, and the shadowy countrysides of the English Lake District. The album is a heady mix of dense electronics and spectral light emanating from the other side, and “Who Put Bella Down The Wych Elm?” encapsulates that trip. Buzzing electronics and trippy atmosphere surround you in ethereal mystery. It’s like some early 80s pop track slowed down and run thru oscillators and LSD. A walk home with gauzy ears and streetlight tracers, swathed in mystery and mild delusion.

Just avoid the pitchforks.


Listen to the brooding and hypnotic “Who Put Bella Down The Wych Elm?” below. ‘Witchcraft Murders’ will be released on 2/5 via Library of the Occult on both colored vinyl and limited edition cassette. Check in with Library of the Occult here on 2/5 to snag a copy of this excellent LP. 

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