Its almost as if Forest Swords had written Compassion for a hard hitting drama series for BBC 2. Tribal warrior drum beats set in the distance and an organ which echoes and haunts as if it was being played in a cathedral invoke the drama of Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill. They put the listener in a flashback dream state, as if the mind was processing traumatic memories. There’s a pretty chilled out world music rhythm to this album but its never upbeat, more often deliberately laboured, sometimes dramatic, and deliberately stop start, as if someone is trying to come to terms with something. Snippets of cries, screams and shouts appear and disappear, amidst electrical buzzes as if the mind is momentarily acknowledging some awful memory, and then short circuiting, Autechre like. At times the mixture is so inchoate, the narrative is so lacking, that the music seems to have only the effect of firing off random neurones, a panoply of unrelated base sensations, leaving you in awe of your inability to make sense. A high pitched motherly voice comes in, a la Sigur Ros, a French guy comes in, he’s singing, but he’s repeating the same line, again a stuck memory, a feeling replayed, an experience that the mind and soul can’t process. When the guy sings you’re not really meant to be listening to his singing, but rather imagining that you had once listened to his singing, as if it had once meant something to you. Soothing strings are added to the mix, a feeling of sunrise emerges within one’s soul, is this a coming to terms with something, light at the end of the tunnel? For me this is album is a musical exploration of processing traumatic memories.
Murky morose electronica is a queer phenomena. I’ve always felt seduced by it, its graphic, conceptual, abstract, pseudo-mathematical, philosophical. How is it made? What’s the motivation for doing it? How much money can you make from it, if any? As the person putting this pastiche together, how does one decide to go in any particular direction? How much is one determined by a narrative, a feeling and how much is meticulously planned in the way that a composer pens an opera? Of course if this is really freeform, in some way one could argue its a form of jazz. But what about those who listen to it, who are they, why do they listen to it and when? Does it get plays in bars and clubs? Does anyone ever socialise to it? It may be a phenomenal experience to listen to Forest Swords’ Compassion but putting this on in the family living room after the Sunday roast has been devoured would produce the kind of bewilderment as would shitting on the kitchen floor.
Forest Swords released their LP Compassion on Ninja Tune on 5th May 2017