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Forest Swords – Dagger Paths August 1, 2010

Posted by gwyoung in Album Reviews, Music.
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Artist: Forest Swords

Album: Dagger Paths

Release: Olde English Spelling Bee, 2010

Genre: Experimental

RIYD: Gang Gang Dance, Julian Lynch, Emeralds

Like Beat Connection, Avi Buffalo, and Blondes from my three previous posts, Forest Swords can also be classified as “summer” music, but in a completely different sense of the word. Where songs like “In The Water” and “What’s In It For?” capture the ecstasy of going for a swim in the ocean or frolicking in the breeze, the excursions on Dagger Paths lean more toward the sticky, muggy, and humid qualities of a sweltering heat wave. These extended, looped guitar jams churn along at a snail’s pace, carefully controlling their movement and all the while storing up tension for some kind of release which never really comes, just like the tease of relief on a hot summer day. Muddled vocal samples occasionally pierce through the murky haze, as if crying out for help from the depths of some quicksand or the muck covering a swampy bog, only to be swallowed again by the pounding beat of tribal drums and the relentless repetition of few-note melodies that seem too simple to sound so completely immersive.

At first listen Dagger Paths may seem like a warbled mess of an album, but once you let the rhythms sink in you begin to notice how cleverly constructed each track is. It’s as if the basic guitar patterns prepare your mind for the spasmodic and bizarre sonic samples by lulling it into a meditative state to sharpen focus on the less discernible variations within the music. Like James Blake and other “post-dubstep” artists from the UK, Forest Swords’ Matthew Barnes mangles somewhat-familiar samples by reversing, pitch-shifting, and altering cadence until they sound completely foreign, then pieces them together in a way that is still somehow pleases the brain to hear. Barnes’ music is some of the most intriguingly unique I’ve stumbled across this year, combining elements of dub, soul, grime, and an uncountable number of other influences to synthesize something that sounds like it’s from an entirely different universe. Dagger Paths is quite the listening experience, and if this is the direction in which the dubstep scene is going to be moving in the near future, then I’m so on board.

Check out the fucked-up home movies-style videos for the ghostly “Miarches” and the epic “Glory Gongs” below. If you like what you hear, also check out the two tracks on his “Rattling Cage” 7-inch, both of which show welcome progression towards an even tighter sound.

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