There has always been a terrific sense of place in Forest Swords’ music. An artist who allows the environment he created in to seep into his audio constructions, 2010’s ‘Dagger Paths’ felt redolent of long ways in the Wirral, that expanse of not-city-but-not-country outside of Liverpool. Full lengths ‘Engravings’ and ‘Compassion’ inserted him in the club, revelling with the tributaries of soundsystem culture. New album ‘Bolted’ flips this once more – constructed in Liverpool warehouse, it’s industrial tones and frosted temperatures have you right there by his side.
The producer’s first full length release in six years. It’s not as though he’s been idle, however; successful projects in the sound art and video game world have seen Forest Swords finesse his sense of sound design, absorbing different forms of visual and sonic fusion.
Right from the off, you’re embedded into his world. Opener ‘Munitions’ is all heavy-duty industrial tones, switching from the muscular feel of ‘Thor’s Stone’ say to something more clinical, and splintered. Sparks fly as the different parts bisect one another, his sombre warehouse setting illuminated before descending back into darkness.
Yet there are moments of beautiful purity, too. ‘Butterfly Effect’ utilises a contorted Neneh Cherry sample, the sparkling colour of her voice radiating amid the piercing production. ‘Night Sculpture’ is heavily atmospheric, Forest Swords at his most three-dimensional; ‘Caged’ and ‘The Low’ carry a huge emotional impact, a weight of truth, meaning, and introspection moving through each note.
It’s an aspect of his work Forest Swords doesn’t shy away from. ‘Line Gone Cold’ is an examination of grief, utilising the voice of dub pioneer Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. The Jamaican dub abstractionist actually remixed Forest Swords’ own work, the lines crossing once more in a posthumous echo chamber.
A fascinating return, ‘Bolted’ is often greyscale in tone and shading; rolling back the physicality of ‘Compassion’, it seems to find Forest Swords revelling in a more minimalist, yet also profoundly empathetic space.
Words: Robin Murray