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"Fjree Feather"

Forest Swords – Fjree Feather
20 July 2011, 14:08 Written by Emma Tucker

Fjree Feather not only gives us an insight into Matthew Barnes’ creative process as Forest Swords, but it also raises money for Red Cross’ efforts in Japan, thereby ticking your artistic and philanthropic boxes in one go.

Forest Swords’ Dagger Paths album was a collection of ghostly tracks, full of wispy vocals and imbued with more than a little Eastern influence. Fjree Feather collects together early Forest Swords material, which foreshadows the sound of Dagger Paths. Obviously it’s hard to listen to Fjree Feather without comparing it to Barnes’ later work. Echoes of Fjree Feather can be clearly heard in Dagger Paths once you’ve listened to it, but even so, Barnes most certainly refined his sound considerably from these early pieces. Whilst Dagger Paths belongs more or less in the ‘witch-house’ category, it was still quite melodic, and one of the most appealing points about it was the way Barnes had distanced his music from a typical Western sound. Whilst some of the vocals recalled a more R&B slant, others were reminiscent of temple chanting, lending the entire album a weirdly spiritual feeling. In Fjree Feather, there is less vocal addition, and the tracks sound much more Western, and more influenced by post rock.

‘Down Steps’ has a ghostly opening whoop, followed by a very deep, slow-mo vocal; but the song is far heavier, and more dirgey than anything on Dagger Paths. It also feels more aggressive, and darker than Barnes’ later work. Even so, the similarities are plain to hear – the twitchy snare drum claps, and the vast swooping guitars, which bring to mind various other incarnations of the post-rock genre.

The first time I heard Fjree Feather I was a bit dismissive. It’s easy to want to abandon demo tracks for the work on Dagger Paths, which feels more complete, and far easier to listen to. If you’re after a simple thrill, this isn’t the album for you, but with some patience it becomes more rewarding. A bit of time spent with it allows a way through the intricacies, and although it’s always going to be a slow mover, some familiarity with the patterns of these songs helps you get into their complexities, and appreciate them for what they are.

Fjree Feather is an early echo of Dagger Paths. Barnes’ ideas are all there, they just haven’t fully developed yet. It’s interesting to be able to go back and see where an artist has drawn their finished work from. Just as when they discover an earlier painting beneath an existing one, it allows a unique insight into the working process behind a piece of art.

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