This excellent 6 track EP appeared out of nowhere, well somewhere actually, and got me very excited indeed. I’ve been enjoying a lot of Olde English Spelling Bee’s haunting drone, but this is something a bit different for the label. As well as hailing from the UK rather than the US like the rest of his OESB cohorts, Forest Swords brings a much weightier and varied sound to the hauntological realm.

Forest Swords is credited as M. Barnes on his record sleeve, a one-man project based in the Wirral. The importance this location plays in his music is emphasized by the photography on the sleeve and insert, and song titles such as Hoylake Misst. There may be some post-rationalising on my part, but the influence of these surroundings does bring to mind Liverpool’s pop heritage echoing from over the Mersey.

The revisiting of Timbaland and Aaliyah’s If Your Girl carries the original bass-line south over the river, stumbling out of the R&B clubs of Liverpool leaving a drunken beat and hushed lyrics stumbling around the coastline. There is no irony intended here, it reignites and reminds of how brilliant the original track was. I’ve found myself listening to the original as much as this version in recent weeks. R&B is just one of a series of reinterpreted musical genres. Opening track Miarches combines reverberating guitar and sharp stabs of dubstep synth to create a stunningly good track. Glory Gongs takes a dank dub beat and lifts it with synthesised vocals and guitar, channeling Merseyside’s history of psychedelic inspired rock. Hoylake Misst and Visits both echo Ennio Morricone’s western scores and blend with tribal drumming and haunting vocals to leave you in a sensory stupor.

[Vimeo 9302223]

Hauntology seems to have firmly established itself since Simon Reynolds fairly flippant suggestion for a genre based on Derrida’s ‘ontology’. As with any genrification there is a plenty of debate to be had on whether it really represents the style, or if we even needed another sub-genre in the first place. But, in broad terms the *stuff* collected under this umbrella is defined by the use of decaying effects (vinyl crackle/tape fuzz), to create a distance between the listener and the music, an apparent time-delay.

There are various approaches to this creative decay. The Ghost Box label’s nostalgic use of public information broadcasts, Nite Jewel’s wilted disco, The Caretaker’s decayed ballroom or Burial’s distant, brooding 2-step, to name just a few. Making music or art of is generally a personal endeavour, so it is no surprise that this can sometimes come across as a portal to someone elses memories. At worst it can sound like hipster irony. Where it is most successful is when it moves away from ironic pastiche and coincides with your own experience and memories (dormant or otherwise); forming a link between memory and future, and importantly, creating an open system of musical progression. Forest Swords’ music resonates with me, his faded hip-hop and Morricone landscapes are important to my own musical heritage, but he reinterprets both within a very ‘new’ sound.

Instead of being satisfied with slotting straight into a genre, Forest Swords seems to have incorporated just about all of them, creating a rich sonic patchwork. It is a wonder that the product sounds cohesive at all, let alone the most exciting sounds I’ve heard in a while.

See my previous post for links to further Forest Swords music. Also, for further reading and some vastly more intelligent insight on Hauntology this is an excellent post by Rouge’s Foam.

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