»Cause when you try hard, that‘s when you die hard«. Alright, it doesn’t quite fit the music on »Engravings« to start out with a Kayne-quote, but then again Mathew Barnes aka Forest Swords seems to have internalized those words. He would never bend over backwards for being a musician, and he’s kept it open, so far, whether he’d ever release his own debut. Now, three years after his »Dagger Paths«-EP (voted record of the year by Fact-Mag in 2010), he has released it, after all. Ambitions? Nope, not really. The purpose of »Engravings« is simply to be doing it, which might be exactly the reason why it’s breathtaking. The record runs you over with the opulence of classical music, but then again always puts a soft veil back over your face, created by Mathew Barnes with the deepest roaring borrowings from dub, R&B and beat-hammers. It doesn’t happen often that modern instrumental music sounds this powerful. While the individual tracks wrap up in trance through the use of loops, repetitions and slowly sneaking details, the record as a whole remains unpredictable. »Engravings« could just as well serve as a soundtrack for dynamic aerial footage of England’s country-side in the rustic north-west, for a cold night-walk through what we imagine Liverpool’s industrial quarters to be like. For every drum, Barnes knows exactly how it is supposed to echo; every bass is planned, whether to sound muffled or like it’s making full impact. He anticipates the effect on a track’s atmosphere in every single detail. This way, he has created a record that perfectly combines the mood of vocal-samples with the Tri-Anlge-label-sound, that has dubby basslines and guitars straight out of a spaghetti western practically dripping from the record. It’s one of the records of the year.