Words About Music
Forest Swords “Engravings”
Way back in 2010, Liverpudlian psych/electronic artist Matthew Barnes gained quite a bit of buzz for his debut EP “Dagger Paths,” which he released under the alias Forest Swords. He hasn’t put out much music since then, but he’s finally returned three years later with his debut LP “Engravings,” which is generating some of the same acclaim that his EP did, and I can sort of see why. But not completely.
Forest Swords likes to mix a bunch of different styles like psychedelic, dub, instrumental hip hop, and R&B to make some very dense and very layered instrumental tracks that are fun to dissect and listen to, although nothing on “Engravings” really dazzles me like I’d hoped it would. It’s very technical and complicated and all that jazz, but there’s a point where it starts getting too indulgent to be enjoyable. It’s also part of the problem I have with bands like Dream Theater or some of Mars Volta’s stuff.
Now don’t interpret this review as completely negative, because “Engravings” is a solid album. But it’s not blowing my mind or anything. The only mind blowing thing is thinking about the long process of actually creating this album. Barnes must have gone through weeks of producing and recording and computing and layering and making this album to his liking, and it’s certainly paid off. I can already tell this will top a lot of critics’ best-of lists, and it’s great to see someone who was buzzed about three years ago is able to come back with a solid LP. But as a music fan, this isn’t anything that I see as special. I think it might be because the album reminds me a bit too much of some of the music I’ve heard from Aphex Twin, Autechre, and Fuck Buttons.
Like I said, you shouldn’t think I’m bashing this album, because I’ve heard much worse music this year. I’m really more on the fence about it, and I’m also trying to figure out what it is the critics seem to love so much about it. It’s certainly a good album, and pretty good in the world of electronic music. It’s also an impressive debut from an up-and-coming producer.
SCORE – 6.8
FAVORITE TRACKS – Ljoss, Thor’s Stone, Onward, Gathering, The Plumes