Album of the week: Forest Swords – Compassion

As Forest Swords, UK producer, Matthew Barnes creates vast synthetic dystopian landscapes, carrying the weight of the world in slow sinuous movements trudging through the world with a lethargic determination and a flair for Gothic drama. “Compassion” is the artist’s third studio album, with the critically acclaimed “Dagger Paths” and “Engravings” marking a solitary career on the fringes of a music that has moved well into its witching hour. Breaking through during a time where artists like “The Haxan Cloak”, “Holy Other” and “Trust” were embracing a melancholic retro-active sound that got tagged with everything from “Shoe-Gaze” to “Haunted House”, Forest Swords outlived many of these contemporaries, perpetuating a sound that traversed ephemeral categorisation, withstanding the fleeting hype of an internet craze. Forest Swords has established something substantial, away from a trend-informed language of his peers, and in Compassion it has brought about his finest musical testament to date.

An album of bold, orchestral textures broods with life, relieving some of that oppressive weight from previous albums, with heavy layers stretching over a new infinite space to find a delicacy on this album I’d not witnessed before. It’s unmistakably a Forest Swords album, with attractive melodic phrases peering through the vaporous drone of synthesisers and obscure processed vocal samples, that will have you singing along to gibberish or a foreign language. New to this album, is the use of orchestral instruments/samples for Forest Sword, which emboldens the sound with large brooding legato brass lines and staccato strings that bring a dynamic turn to tracks like “Arms Out” and “Raw Language” that’s never quite existed  like this in the music of Forest Swords before. These are remarkable pieces that could appeal to diverse audiences, and in the context of the album have made a significant contribution to music in 2017.