Swords in Forests? Beware of Rust.

In keeping with the electronic or psych theme, today is electronic. With the internet and the blog and all that made up of actual electrons, it fits the pattern, don’t you think? I’m not sure how psychedelic fits, but maybe there’s some cognitive pattern I can call on … you know … so, where were we? Electronic? Right. Forest Swords. Have you heard of them? Until really recently, neither had I. First, I read a remarkable description in an eMusic review saying that Forest Swords answers the question: “What would reggae sound like if, in terms of overall vibe and tone, it sounded nothing like reggae at all?” I never knew to even ask that question, but, once asked, how could I resist learning about the answer?!?! Second, I discovered that there is no ‘them’ in Forests Swords. Despite the plural name, the band consists of only Matthew Barnes, a music producer out of Liverpool.

If I tell you about Forest Swords, you’ll have to remember that I am limited to only language and, even then, only to language linked to things I actually know. I can’t place my emotional impressions directly here on the page/screen for you to place in your head. For one thing, that would be dangerous. For another … do I need another? In short, Forest Swords, takes the electronically-oriented compositional aim of Four Tet and puts it into a more organic sounding package that reaches straight through my intellect to my emotions. It’s the sound track to a film that I wish would stop playing so I could just listen.

Forest Swords human member and Factory Floor’s guitarist/vocalist have an interesting less musical overlap in their recent history. Both took specially designed recordings of music or sound and placed them, as if on vinyl, on disintegrating media, Barnes (of Forest Swords) on disintegrating x-ray plates and Colk (of Factory Floor) on plastic album sleeves.

Engravings by Forest Swords

Engravings by Forest Swords

In my limited electronic music experience, I would compare Forest Swords to Fuck Buttons, but, mixed with some sort of tropical sound like what Dead Can Dance or Deep Forest once did. Forest Swords is not at all the ecstatic noise of Fuck Buttons, but it is a kind of experimental mix of noise and environment, like the jungle taking over a remote mine or industrial plant and then experiencing flashbacks to more industrial times.

If you are brave enough or wise enough to listen to this album, here’s some of what you’ll find:

  • A pipe sound, as in some kind of instrumental pipe, almost seeming to be a punctuated whale song on “Thor’s Stone”.

  • The ghost of the factory choir haunting the ending of “Irby Tremor”
  • The jungle itself, having the actual active factory flashback on “Onward”, broken up by earlier memories of a stirring soaring string/percussion performance seen as a child.
  • The intermittent echo of a far off reggae song over a minimalist rhythm on “The Weight of Gold”
  • Some kind of annoying digitally altered R&B singing during “An Hour” which, fortunately, lasts for less than that.
  • A spectacularly mutilated vocal sample leading off “Gathering” that makes some kind of simple chorus into something sounding like interrupted nonsense jungle Swedish. These samples, played simultaneously as tonal and rhythmic elements are really cool!

I don’t quite see the reggae question above being answered, but, then again, I don’t care that much. With another description, I wouldn’t have given this a try. With another publication’s label of ‘dub’, I would have been on to the next thing, psychedelic and/or electronic. Instead, here I am … and so are you. So, how are you? Do you like what you hear?

8 thoughts on “Swords in Forests? Beware of Rust.

  1. Ok David. I linked over here from Marmot to see what’s up and noticed “electronic” and thought ugh, but scrolled down and saw the half naked man and was like, ohhhh-Kay (I love when you add a video, half naked men or not), so watched it and (1) got immensely freaked out by his shoulder blades. Do all shoulder blades look like that? I never bothered to look, and (2) had my horizons expanded because the music was kinda cool! As I type this the tune is stuck in my head. So thanks :)

Am I wrong?