16th October 2017 ~ The Lantern, Bristol
A thought-provoking, distinctive image lights up the Byzantine high walls of the Lantern, as London multi-instrumentalist Forest Swords ventures deep within another striking and sonically rich piece from his 2017 record ‘Compassion‘. The high definition, moving illustration, an outstretched body reaching for the very projected edges from which the image is displayed, is bold and enrapturing, enticing various emotions and notions of symbolism. It comes to suitably fit Forest Swords’ music, synonymous with a wealth of distinctive suggestions, technical pleasures in texturing and the summoning of disparate affections, in particular when performed live within the adaptable trio (including this evening’s visual conductor) who fill the Lantern this evening with an instinctive edge.
The relationship between the audio and the visual aspects within Matthew Barnes’ live performance very much go hand in hand, a seamless connectivity that was crafted to not only heighten the experience and add an extra element to his music but as a whole implement the abstract and vast ideas that the artist attempted (with success) to convey thematically within his latest record. ‘Congregate‘, the night’s excellently discordant opener, flashes with intensity live, a slowly-constructed, rippling and fragmented inclusion that live is matured by Barnes’ alone, lurching over various pedals, a loaded synth and triggered pad, something he plays completely and compulsively with impressive fluidity. The picture, a slowly rotating paper construction of a slightly distinguishable face, is subsequently notable and transfixing, an ominous yet fragile and human engraving that embodies the fractured yet soulful harmonies that haunt the jittery track. It’s an immediate insight into the open narrative that would be on display – the warning horn of ‘Panic‘, with it’s twinkling instrumentation juxtaposed against eastern melody and provoked undulating beats, oscillates under the darkness as Barnes’ lets loose from within his own construction, expressive in his own movement as the addition of bass elicits the inspiration of dub to enhanced effect. It mirrors well against the mysticism of early ‘Dagger Paths‘ cut ‘Miarches‘ it’s leading guitar hook smokey and alluring within the whirring, bubbling synths and sudden, bracing vocal appearance that trills around the room. It displays how his live show intensifies the large, anxious space that flaunts within his music, a notion towards something more human and severe rather than sentimental, something absolute when considered within the overwhelming thematic of considered visuals that are presented this evening.
The aforementioned image flickers like a pulse, imposing and unequivocal. The importance of the visual is dictated by the bright ropes that are tied taut against the skin of its occupier. It summons impressions of obvious suppression, the bindings tightened as the body is astonishingly unmoved, and it’s Forest Swords’ enlightening, revolving perception that adds another principle to the substance, a consideration of self-abolishment ringing as true as the more suggestible consequence of such a picture. It’s tormenting to view, an idea of sorrow painted within such glaring monochrome as this, but it again comes to define how impactful Compassion is as a record and Forest Swords music as a whole, the elegance of the vocal melodies and earthly instruments that Forest Swords drowns in fragmented yet crystal clear sharpness is almost single-handedly provoking feelings of coercion.
It’s then fitting that Barnes would reach for a closing point with ‘Raw Language‘, something openly transcendent and simply embracive, the tripping, crisp percussion surrounded with emotive strings and an array of unidentified echoes, one of Forest Swords’ most organic and mortal points. After the entrancing set performed, to close with something so open it almost feels rapturous, an emphatic dedication to simply being. The interactive and utterly fantastic showing that Forest Swords’ present is treated, studious and most importantly affecting, however you interpret the performance on display.