We are living in strange world, and ‘compassion’ is a word that seems to be used less and less as time wears on. Forest Swords’ latest album is here to change that. The record is steeped in soaring strings, reverberating percussion and ancient noise, bringing together a sound that is bounded in emotion.
There is a feeling of anxiety to the music, a constant struggle between the beautiful melodies and tense atmospheres that are built throughout the 10 tracks. Matthew Barnes, the mind behind Forest Swords, blends the past and present perfectly, merging digital sounds with scratchy, vintage samples. His seamless production sometimes making it hard to distinguish between the two.
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The opening track ‘War It’ is an anxious introduction to ‘Compassion’, with its dusty layers and rattling drums. The following track and former single ‘The Highest Flood’ continues to take the LP into darker territories, building on the tension with distorted riffs and haunting vocal samples, creating a sound lifted from centuries past.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. As the album progresses, little glimmers of light and hope begin to shine through. The lead vocal sampled during ‘Arms Out’, breaks through the dense production and reaches out an optimistic hand, powered by beautiful strings and rolling percussion.
Barnes’ ability to manipulate samples is the driving force behind ‘Compassion’. During ‘Raw Language’ he twists a few vocal notes into a euphoric choir, backed by a series of dramatic string stabs. The album closes with an ambient, piano-led affair, appropriately named ‘Knife Edge’ – which is where Forest Swords’ music sits.
‘Compassion’ is a constant fight between past and present, light and dark, failure and hope. The balance is constantly sliding from one side to the other, so you never know which side will win. In a world where you’re never quite sure what will happen next, you’re only hope is that compassion will shine through.
‘Compassion’ is available now via Ninja Tune.