Speaking with No Words
Forest Swords’ sophomore LP is something special. Matthew Barnes, otherwise known as Forest Swords, is known for his experimental music influenced by genres such as dub and ambient. With Compassion, the English producer has set out to create electronic music that shows feeling without speaking. There are no featured vocalists on this album, but the music is able convey a volume of emotion on its own. This project is definitely a success for Forest Swords, and fans of experimental music should be excited to have a meaty new album to dig into.
One of the first things one will notice about Compassion is that each song has a personality and mood all to its own. Barnes works hard to give each piece this uniqueness. For example, the song “Vandalism” starts out slow with drumbeats and bell clinks that begin to escalate almost like the planning before the act of vandalism itself. Then, the addition of guitars and claps later on imitates the thrill of actually taking part in the act. The song “Panic” is another impressive offering, making listeners feel as if something isn’t right. As the track goes on, light chimes give way to rumbling guitars and bongo beats that signify anxiety and panic. The song also features a great vocal sample that comes in halfway through the track; it all comes together to really drive home this theme of panic.
“Borden Margin Barrier” is another song that is able to exude a unique aura. The synths that fade in and out — each time almost touching — give the impression that there is a barrier just barely keeping them apart. Each song on this album has a similar amount of depth to it. One could dig through any one of them looking for a new meaning for a long time. That is one of the great elements of instrumental music: one’s imagination is able to run free, envisioning any meaning it wants from the sounds that are heard. It is surprising that Forest Swords were able to weave together so many different elements into a cohesive whole on this project. Not only does the album feature so much depth of interpretation, it’s also supremely listenable with great relaxing melodies on songs like “Arms Out.” All in all, Barnes should really be proud of himself because this project is a winner.