ALBUM REVIEW: Forest Swords – Engravings

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This is Matthew Barnes’ first album on Ninja Tunes and if anyone thought that might mean a softening of his more caustic edges then they are mistaken.

Primarily instrumental electronic music, the vocals that do appear are generally spliced and twisted into choirs, like machines speaking in tongues. These are digital compositions but he still retains a primitive, organic percussive base to his sound.

Less dub-influenced than on Engravings (2013), Compassion still possesses the disorientating, otherworldly psychedelic patina that he coats his music in. It’s an often impressive and immersive exercise in ancient futurism that works both as an imagined soundtrack and a transportive headphone experience.

Chris Familton

 

LIVE REVIEW: Forest Swords, Cassius Select @ Oxford Art Factory, Sydney (16.03.15)

photo by Sophie Jarry
photo by Sophie Jarry

Even though it was a Sunday night, I had expected that this would be a pretty popular gig, so I was surprised to see the dividing curtains drawn across the room at the Oxford Art Factory, and by the slightly hushed and cavernous feeling that I got as we walked in, regardless of the fact that the place is essentially a shoe-box (said with love, OAF). Cassius Select had already started when I arrived, and my German friend, who is probably more used to the nightclubs of Berlin, commented that the sound quality was a bit lacking. It occurred to me that this was the exact reason for the curtains – a kind of dampener for the hollow, echo-y sounds of a PA system that is on default for a room that is usually crowded full of soft, sound-absorbing bodies.  Plus it makes the room look slightly less empty.  Cassius Select as support was convincing nonetheless, demonstrating an onstage presence and production quality that should warrant them developing a pretty respectable following of their own.

The interesting thing was, though, that once Forest Swords started, the whole room disappeared, minutes slipped into seconds. They were utterly mesmerising, entrancing – and even NOT wasted, I could not, if my life depended on it, describe a single other person in the room, in terms of age, gender, or manifest interest – they all just vanished.  I even managed to almost forget my hot date, for a moment. Forest Swords just draws your attention; soft reggae dub rhythms behind industrial-edged, percussive melodies (suddenly the name makes a kind of sense – it is soft and lush, and sharp and hard all at once). They were also faster, easier to dance to (sway to) than I would have expected, based on what I have heard on their albums; and the promised HD projections – repetitive, anachronous strands of pearls and chain lengths swaying in the background, occasionally interrupted by GIFs of 1920’s femme fatales – were somehow neither distracting nor extraneous. They sort of worked – not quite in the background, not quite the star of the show.  It seemed like a short set, and I was genuinely surprised by how late it was when it finished.  Sometimes you can be surprised and transported, even by a performance you have high expectations of, even sober on a Sunday night.

Sarah Norman

Favourite Electronic Albums of 2013

DS 2013 elect favesIncreasingly electronic music is reasserting itself as a viable album length genre. Sure it still thrives on the single and the remix but more and more there are albums, primarily from the UK scene, that manage to straddle the headphone and dancefloor worlds or in some cases they work most effectively as immersive home listening experiences. Here are the albums that we found ourselves returning to most often in 2013.

Special mention to Burial’s Rival Trader EP which dropped late in the year and on first listens it sounds excellent. I decided to keep this list focused on albums but Rival Trader is no doubt one of the finest releases of the year and a great way to round out 2013.

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1. The Haxan Cloak – Extinction

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2. DJ Koze – Amygdala

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3.  Zomby – With Love

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4. Forest Swords – Engravings

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5. Fat Freddy’s Drop – Blackbird

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6. Mark Kozelek & Jimmy LaValle – Perils From The Sea

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7. Depeche Mode – Delta Machine

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8. Special Request – Soul Music

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9. Machinedrum – Vapor City

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10. Atoms For Peace – Amok

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11. Disclosure – Settle

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12. Darkside – Psychic

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13. The Field – Cupid’s Head

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14. Holden – The Inheritors

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15. Four Tet – Beautiful Rewind

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16. Jon Hopkins – Immunity

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17. Tim Hecker – Virgins

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18. Daniel Avery – Drone Logic

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19. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest

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20. Logos – Cold Mission

ds…twenty five – our favourite releases of 2010

That’s it then, 2010 done and dusted and although it wasn’t the best year ever for new music there were some damn fine records released. This year we’re seeing an even more eclectic mix of flavours coming through from witch house, minimal electronica, americana, experimental and the all encompassing indie tag. Have a look at what we loved through the year, click on the covers for linked reviews and please leave comments and let us know your faves…

2010 has also been another stellar year for reissues, remasters and deluxe versions and honourable mentions must go to:

  • David Bowie | Station To Station
  • The Rolling Stones | Exile On Main Street
  • Iggy Pop & James Williamson | KIll City
  • Dexys Midnight Runners | Searching For The Lost Soul Rebels
  • Frankie Goes To Hollywood | Welcome To The Pleasuredome
  • The Cure | Disintegration

25. Spoon | Transference

24. Liars | Sisterworld

23. Wavves | KIng Of The Beach

22. Surf City | Kudos

21. Simon Carter | The Black Book Of The Universe

20. Mount Kimbie | Crooks & Lovers

19. James Blake | Klavierwerke EP

18. Forest Swords | Dagger Paths EP

17. Jeremy Jay | Splash

16. Mark Moldre | The Waiting Room

15. Damien Jurado | Saint Bartlett

14. Deerhunter | Halcyon Digest

13. Gayngs | Relayted

12. Zola Jesus | Stridulum II

11. Wooden Shjips | Vol. 2

10. CocoRosie | Grey Oceans

9. Yeasayer | Odd Blood

8. The Black Keys | Brother

7. Tame Impala | Innerspeaker

6. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti | Before Today

5. Best Coast | Crazy For You

4. Beach House | Teen Dream

3. Die! Die! Die! | Form

2. The Soft Pack | The Soft Pack

1. Arcade Fire | The Suburbs

Mid Year Best Of…

Yep, we’re halfway through 2010 already, crazy huh? For the first few months it seemed like there weren’t many big records coming out that were instantly going to make the end of year best of list but all of a sudden our list in progress started filling up. Here then is a list of 13 releases, in no particular order, that have caught our attention and perhaps deserve yours. Over the next few weeks we’ll post some of the best tracks from these albums.

Drop a comment, we’d love to hear what you’ve been slipping back on the turntable or hitting repeat on the ipod…

Beach House | Teen Dream… A record that carries on from the swoon and sway that the band captured on their previous release Devotion. This just unveils itself more and more with each listen, wallowing in its subtlety and dreaminess.

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti | Before Today… A killer album that totally lives up to the blogosphere hype. There are lo-fi elements at work that don’t descend into amateur songwriting. The tunes are complex, the melodies catchy as hell and there is enough chaos and eccentricity to make hypnagogic pop sound compelling rather than a novelty genre.

Liars | Sisterworld… The new album sees the band straightening their sound and investing it with the best elements of their songwriting – tribal drumming, chanted vocals, industrial rhythms, hypnotic bass and no wave guitar. Their best album to date… Read full review


Zola Jesus | Stridulum EP… Appearing like a ghostly Siouxsie she has a haunting, gothic voice that conjures up dark romance and  nice mix of electronics and guitars. Post goth perhaps? Best EP of the year so far…

Tame Impala | Innerspeaker… These young gents from West Australia have far exceeded the promise of their early singles and live shows by releasing a fully formed and sonically adventurous psych rock album. It is packed full of hazy vocals, magical guitar playing and real ‘album’ experience. Tame Impala have taken from the past, updated and reinterpreted it for modern ears. Read full review

Yeasayer | Odd Blood… Pop music in 2010 has become bastardised by hip hop artists mutating dance music to its lowest common denominator or youngsters desperately rehashing power ballads or the worst of the 80s. Yeasayer have taken the sound and scope of 80s pop and in a sense paid tribute to it with complete conviction and infectious results. You won’t find anything as catchy as this in 2010.

Jeremy Jay | Splash… A 26 minute album that stole our ears and burrowed into our hearts . Full of forlorn indie pop songs with hook after hook. If he had got it slightly different it would have been laughable but Jay surfs an effortless wave between Television, Interpol, Pavement and Modest Mouse. Detached cool never sounded so good. Read full review

The Soft Pack | self titled… This was one of the earliest releases in ’10 that hooked us. San Diego lads relocate to LA, take the vacant spot left by The Strokes and get back to basics with garage rock strained through The Cure, The Saints and Spoon. It has all been done before but their simplicity and timeless sound is spot on. Read full review Read interview

The Black Keys | Brothers… Prior to hearing this I was never really a particular fan of their bluesy rock n roll. Brothers changes all that with a change in direction that leaves a deep and soulful imprint on the sound and mood of the album. They invest in some heavy groove workouts throughout that suggest a foray into psychedelic rhythm and blues. Read full review

Forest Swords | Dagger Paths… Another entrant in the hauntology/hypnagogic realm and this is one of the best. Englishman Matthew Barnes combines dub, drone, psych and krautrock into one murky mix that taps into your imagination and your feet equally. It is like the heaviest stoned out wander through your brain… in a good way.

Mark Moldre | The Waiting Room… Equal parts, Wilco, Eels, Sparklehorse and the gentler side of Tom Waits – there are sepia-tinged universal themes at work in The Waiting Room that conjure up feelings of nostalgia, loss, love and optimism and Moldre has captured the mood of the human soul with great artistic clarity. Read full review

CocoRosie | Grey Oceans… Impossible to describe these two sisters but they incorporate opera, hip hop, nursery rhyme, minimalism and folk into possibly the most original and hypnotic music you will hear this year. Obtuse yet captivating and accessible.

Deepchord Presents Echospace | Liumin… There has been much electronic music that has excited me this year, much of it on the dubstep and dub techno tip. DPE mixz field recordings with smeared and stretched electronica like some doom dream that you can’t escape. They are working in the same area as Burial yet they still carve out their own dread laden synth niche.