9/10 ReviewBot300 Staff review, 21 August 2013
I just listened to the execrable new album from Money, or at least as much of it as the office could bear before Phil insisted I switch it off some way into track four. My despair has been eased somewhat by the fact that I have this absolute corker of a new album by Forest Swords to follow it up with, though. I’ve been saving it for such an occasion where the endless review slog descends into such drivel that it causes my faith in music itself to dwindle.
On it, Forest Swords takes the spook-loop darkness of the likes of Decimus or Burial Hex and injects it with a healthy dose of woozy Hype Williamsy post-dubbiness and then a few cinematic and subtly melodic ingredients of his own - ‘Onward’ ends with some sweeping strings and puttering tribal rhythms, there’s some Ennio Morricone-ish guitar in ‘Irby Tremor’ (which I briefly thought sounded like something else until I realised that the “something else” I was thinking of was just the fact I’ve heard this album a couple of times already). ‘An Hour’ is like a dubbed out coffee-table Boards of Canada with its staccato synth and xylophone loops and blurzed hip hop beats, even getting touches of Gold Panda in there. Tri Angle certainly seems like an appropriate home for this record.
For all the idle comparisons I’m making, though, what really sets Forest Swords apart is that he’s making music which is truly distinctive and sounds like himself. The clear, plangent guitar, dubby bass, woozy beats and muffly samples all add up to an instantly recognisable and totally listenable aesthetic with a great balance of light and shade and a woozy drifting sonic palette which is very current without sounding like a pastiche of any other artist doing the rounds right now. I’d be very surprised if this doesn’t grab our Album of the Week title.
8/10 Dr G Customer review, 17th November 2014
Forest Swords creates a soundtrack for now on this good lp. Primarily electronica, this nevertheless manages to escape sounding predictable, possibly because there are so many different genres thrown into the mix, maybe because lots of organic sounds are used. So skittery drum and bass faces up to Japanese melodies, doomy atmospheres cloak indie rock jangly guitars, gloomy dub squares up to keening whale song ambience, trip hop tries to shove its tongue down the throat of northern soul, distorted processed choruses weave through the murk of a tribal stomp. This is where the album comes unstuck though; it does not always succeed in meshing into something coherent. It can't quite decide whether it wants to convey the atavistic Celtic atmosphere of moss and mist of "Thor's Stone", or whether it is underground housing estate music. In other words, at times it seems that experimentalism trumps actually having something to say. There are also some missteps in the collaging of different elements; the soul elements in some tracks ("An Hour", "Friend, You Will Never Learn") jar pointlessly with the more poignant dark ambience. I personally think that the album starts stronger than it finishes and if the lighter elements were jettisoned, a more coherent and ultimately more convincing work would result, but I can easily imagine some saying just the opposite. So it is a mixed up album that can't make its mind up. As I said, it sounds like now. Sounds like us.
10/10 Lynda Customer review, 30th October 2013
I am just loving this album. As a Boards of Canada obsessive, I am always hungry for something a bit different and this one has moved me onto something really exciting. A mixture of XX guitar, dubstep from Burial, it's just an amazing experience to listen to this album from start to finish. Everytime I listen, a different track seems to get stuck in my head. Very worthy of a Mercury nomination next time around in my opinion. Buy this and enjoy a whole new world of Forest Swords!
9/10 Clem Customer review, 29th August 2013
A list of the elements Matthew Barnes has co-opted from disparate sources and stitched together to create Forest Swords' music would be basically endless. Suffice to say Engravings includes hazy, bass-heavy soundscapes akin to his 'witch-house' labelmates on new home Tri Angle, dubby guitar lines in the vein of a wintrier Sun Araw, spectral vocals reminiscent of hauntological music, and a whole litany of other signifiers.
More importantly than its similarities to other music is how evocative the album is - Barnes (apparently) recorded a lot of it outdoors in his native Wirral and this is pretty clear in, for example, the spectral vocal samples of 'Gathering', which sound like they could be rising from the River Dee, or in the heavy mist of reverb and echo that hangs over the album as a whole. There are a couple of niggling little problems - like the stuttering sample repeated at the start of 'Onwards' which sounds awkward and carries on for 2 minutes almost entirely solo which is pretty infuriating to listen to, but these are eclipsed by beautiful moments such as the entrance of vocal samples on standout 'Thor's Stone'. The album's also refreshingly atemporal - it isn't obviously tied to a specific time in virtue of particular vocals or production choices or whatever, so I can picture it being just as interesting a listen in 5 years time as it is now, something that can't be said of the vast majority of albums.
(The artwork is ace too).
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