The sparse, psychedelic headspace that Forest Swords carves on his latest record, Engravings, is terrifically unsettling. Wholly original in both style and substance, yet frighteningly familiar in its immediacy, Matthew Barnes’ droning guitar licks and relentless bass drum hits sound more like the twisted field recordings of a forest-dwelling cult than the original compositions of one man.
Tracks like Irby Tremor and Anneka’s Battle march to a skeletal dub beat, but aside from the comforting presence of electric guitars, you’d be hard-pressed to pin down the source of any specific sound, whether melodic or percussive. Synths flutter like flocks of birds and roar like distant, shadowy beasts best left unnamed, while the clangor of metallic objects reminds us of the human world that exists somewhere beyond the cloudy valley that the music conjures up.
It’s a cliché to refer to especially evocative electronic music as “organic,” but Engravings feels organic in a different sense of the word: it’s a meticulously-crafted hideout, deep in the woods, composed of sun-dried mud bricks and a thatched roof that leaks when it rains. It won’t keep you warm or dry, but it possesses a uniquely human fragility which holds the key to its beauty.