Forest Swords


Ninja Tune • 2023

For Matthew Barnes, the transition from visual to auditory has always taken a blink of an eye. Since his debut EP »Dagger Paths«, the Liverpool-bred musical outsider has left no stone unturned in translating his fascination with the visual arts into sound. Collage and staffage, oil painting and digital graphic design are both inspiration and objects of study for him, the aesthetics of which he seeks to reflect in the sound of Forest Swords. An autodidact and intuitive producer, Barnes chooses not to follow a precise blueprint for developing his signature sound, regardless of whether he is using looped guitars and a four-track recorder, a microphone in the field, or a laptop in his home studio with half a dozen DAWs. This is another expression of his love for a fusion between analogue and digital. While his last two albums were variations on tribal ambient dub, mixed with occasional surreal downtempo textures, Bolted now sounds much rougher and more contoured. Field recordings, modulated samples (Neneh Cherry, Lee »Scratch« Perry) and the ritualistic gesture of the beats continue to define the drama on each single track. But a post-industrial, cinematic sound design dominates, while the atmosphere initially seems resigned, as on »Rubble« or the almost chamber-orchestral »End«. The beats are auditory debris, massive and yet richly cut. Still, every time you listen to it, the bitterly tender glimmer of hope behind the initial melancholy becomes more apparent, as on the sacred »Caged« or the percussive stylistic miniature »Hjope«. The past few years have obviously not left Barnes unscathed—and the permanent crisis mode of the global risk society is already entering its next phase. The lockdown is now being followed by the lockdown of entire cultures, population groups and human destinies. The era of alienation is back. Here comes the soundtrack for it.