Boomkat Product Review:
It's been years since we last had a proper full-length from Matthew Barnes, aka Forest Swords. 'Bolted' reminds us he's still at it, fusing his score-honed sound design with the dusty, lop-sided rhythms we first fell in love with.
Since he released 'Compassion' back in 2017, Barnes has been hard at work as an in-demand composer and sound designer, creating ballet, movie and video game scores. We got a glimpse at his work in 2019 when he released his treatment for architect/director Liam Young's "fever dream visual poem" 'The Machine Air'. And 'Bolted' finds Barnes stuck between worlds, attempting to capture the fizzy DIY irreverence of his early material and re-sculpt it with skills he's been sharpening ever since. Advance single 'The Low' is a good place to start, based on a beat the producer originally made for Yoko Ono. Coughing and spluttering to life with hollow, pots 'n pans drums and gamelan-like tonal vamps, the track lets its lead vocal curl like smoke over Barnes' thick, industrial backdrop.
'Butterfly Effect' is another angular pop dispatch, this time featuring a previously unheard vocal sample from Neneh Cherry. Barnes' trip-hop influence has been present since the early days, but it's never sounded quite as candid; 'Butterfly Effect' is Massive Attack on a rough grind, with the component parts muddled but not unrecognisable. Ghosted vocals blur over hazed, stepped beats and faded orchestrals - it's as widescreen as 'Unfinished Sympathy', but darker and more chaotic. Elsewhere, Barnes works with a similar palette but paints in thicker strokes, touching industrial metal on 'Rubble' and blissed-out, loopy medieval sounds on 'Caged', and sounding like Sakamoto with a stack of Sunn amps on the moody 'Chain Link'.