Compassion is the highly anticipated return of Forest Swords, following his stunning Tri Angle album Engravings (one of our top 10 albums of 2013). Composed as a response to the current state of the world as seen through his eyes, Compassion is a perfectly formed transmission from the mid-point between ecstasy and melancholy, a call to arms for togetherness in times of hardship.
Back in 2010 when the Dagger Path EP landed on our doorstep, little was known about who Forest Swords was, but the impact of these recordings instantly had us and many others hooked. Upon signing to Tri Angle in 2013 he delivered what on reflection is a peak moment within the label's signature cross-genre sound, mixing elements of R&B-tinged vocals, 808 snare snaps, shoegaze feedback and a hoods up eyes-down approach to electronica that carried both a gritty urban quality, yet as his namesake proposed was built out of purely organic produce that no other artist within the scene had yet to explore. This rendition of elements was subjected to various incarnations, most notably on Andy Stott's Passed Me By and We Stay Together double packs, yet no one ever really quite hit the heights of Forest Swords' gothic ambience.
Fast forward to the present day and following on from his sparse and climatic soundtrack to the dance piece Shrine, Forest Swords fulfils the promises hinted at on The Highest Flood single with a full-length offering for Ninja Tune. Compassion takes its form as "a response to the uncertain, aggressive new world we’re experiencing and communicating within, distilling it into a unique sound territory". Utilising his skills as a producer of rhythmic orchestral arrangements with a highly attuned knowledge of hip-hop beats, Compassion portrays a darker side to Forest Swords that is ripe with influence from Mark Ernestus and Shackleton yet wouldn't sound out of place on a Workshop 12".
Throughout the album, echoes of his previous work rings through the trees, but here we find Forest Swords taking elements of his previous records while carving out new areas of hi-def ambience that carry an almost industrial undertow through the deep dredges of the album's core. Using the title as a platform to draw hope, Forest Swords says "Like many, with all that's been going on since I started making the record, I've struggled to see any kind of light at the end of the tunnel," says Barnes, "so I realised there's some sort of power in trying to create our own instead”. Compassion transverses these ideas with the sort of digital psychedelia that can only be drawn from the deepest darkest corners of the mind, topping them off with a rolling rapid-fire woodblock drum beat and overlaying it with a distorted dub drone, Compassion hypnotises with its melancholy undercurrent yet translates an unstoppable positive light to all that dare to tread deep. A captivating listen that true to its name offers Compassion for all that follow its late night dusk-fallen allure.