Forest Swords

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Forest Swords
Forest Swords 2.jpg
Forest Swords
Background information
Birth name Matthew Barnes
Origin Liverpool, England, UK
Genres Experimental, electronic, dub
Occupation(s) Musician, record producer, composer
Labels Ninja Tune
No Pain in Pop
Olde English Spelling Bee
Tri Angle

Matthew Barnes, known by his stage name Forest Swords, is an English music producer and artist.

Music career[edit]

Dagger Paths EP[edit]

Forest Swords's debut 6 track EP Dagger Paths was originally released in March 2010 before being reissued later that year with additional tracks. FACT Magazine's named it their album of the year,[1] received an 8.4 rating on music website Pitchfork[2] and was No. 48 on their 'Albums of the Year' list,[3] was rated 9/10 on music website Drowned in Sound,[4] called "one of 2010's finest underground records" by NME,[5] and was chosen a 'Hidden Gem of 2010' in The Guardian.[6]

Engravings LP[edit]

Debut album Engravings was released through Tri Angle Records on 26 August 2013. The critical response has been unanimously positive, with Pitchfork giving an 8.5 Best New Music review and Resident Advisor a 4.5/5 review.[7] Stereogum rated it at number 37 in their best albums of 2013 list,[8] Wire Magazine at number 35, Pitchfork at number 34,[9] Clash Magazine rated it at number 21,[10] Dummy Magazine at number 16,[11] and Tiny Mix Tapes at number 10.[12]

The video for "Thor's Stone" was directed by Dave Ma and was online in September 2013, featuring Spanish dancer Guzman Rosado.[13]

A video for "The Weight Of Gold" directed by French dancer and choreographer Benjamin Millepied was posted online in February 2014, featuring dancer Billy Barry.[14]

A remix of Engravings lead track "Thor's Stone" by dub artist Lee Scratch Perry was posted online in November 2013.[15]

Compassion LP[edit]

The second Forest Swords album, Compassion, was released through Ninja Tune on 5 May 2017, with a video and streaming single release of lead track "Arms Out" and a set of worldwide festival and headline tour dates.[16] Previously the track "The Highest Flood" was released as a standalone digital single.[17]

Resident Advisor gave the album a 4.5/5 review, calling it "both sincere and sublime".[18] Fake DIY called it "heart-stopping and thoroughly arresting" in a 4/5 review.[19] DJ Mag gave it 4/5 and called it "a stunning vision, hypnotic". In an 8.5/10 review The 405 website calls it "a brilliant album – well worth the four year wait".[20] Q Magazine gave it a strong 4/5 review, and said it “unfolds like a journey through a bustling soundscape of found sounds, instrumental loops and post-dubstep production". The Loud & Quiet review stated the album is "arresting in its austerity" in a 8/10 review.[21] Pitchfork rated the album at 7.8; "more ambitious and varied while retaining the uncanniness he’s known for".[22] PopMatters gave it a score of 8, saying "A dazzling, evocative album that acts as the perfect soundtrack to the precarious times we live in".[23] AV Club called it "passionately realized" in an A- review.[24] Clash gave it an 8 out of 10 review, describing it as "wordless protest music that impresses with its sheer thematic ambition".[25] Exclaim awarded it 8/10, saying "the goosebumps will cover most of your body".[26] Sputnikmusic gave the album a 4.5 out of 5 'superb' rating, describing it as 'nothing short of breathtaking'.[27] Gigsoup praised Compassion's 'beautiful strings and rolling percussion' in an 86% review.[28] In an 8 out of 10 review Soundblab claimed Barnes has 'developed a whole new language/style that other electronic musicians should be eager to take note of'.[29] The Age rated Compassion 4.5 out of 5, calling it 'triumphant'.[30] It was album of the week on BBC 6Music and Bleep.[31]

A new single featuring two tracks from the Compassion album recording sessions - "Congregate" and "Free" - was released on 28 September, with all proceeds going to relief work in Mexico and Puerto Rico.[32]

Critical response[edit]

In November 2010, Pitchfork Media posted an article suggesting Barnes was part of a new generation of producer composers, alongside James Blake, Mount Kimbie, Bon Iver, Burial and Four Tet.[33]

A June 2013 feature on The FADER website placed the Forest Swords project as a unique and contemporary strain of dub music, "worth endless listens, endless re-examinations, endless re-contextualizing", and stating it "exists in that sweet spot of musical influence between everything and nothing."[34]

Further musical work[edit]

Barnes collaborated with Massive Attack’s 3D/Robert del Naja and Young Fathers on the score for "La Fête (est Finie)", a short film about climate change lobbying released in December 2015.[35]

Barnes soundtracked the film 'In The Robot Skies', directed by Liam Young, for the BFI London Film Festival in October 2016.[36]

In May 2016, Forest Swords released "Shrine", a soundtrack for an original solo dance piece creatively directed by Barnes. The dance performance is available on to watch on YouTube via Boiler Room and the live performance of the piece has toured European festivals such as ReWire in Den Hague.[37]

Barnes has stated that he is interested in working on production for hip-hop and R&B artists, soundtrack composition and sound installation.[38][39] Since Dagger Paths, Forest Swords has been commissioned to remix These New Puritans, Wild Beasts, Gold Panda and The Big Pink.

In 2012, Forest Swords co-produced and co-wrote the single "Cold Nites" for How To Dress Well, from the album Total Loss. [40]

Forest Swords produced Barbados hip-hop MC Haleek Maul's track "Lobo", which was posted online in August 2013.[41] In April 2014, Forest Swords recorded a BBC Radio 1 live session at Maida Vale Studios for Benji B. A new composition was performed alongside Engravings album tracks "Thor's Stone" and "The Weight of Gold".[42] A mix for Fact was posted online in June 2014.[43]

In August 2014, the artist was commissioned to produce original music for Ubisoft's video game title Assassins Creed Rogue trailer.[44]

Art work[edit]

On 29 September 2011, at the Abandon Normal Devices festival, three specially commissioned Forest Swords pieces, as part of a site-specific sound art series called 'Ground Rhythms',[45] were cut to 12" X-ray film and performed on turntables at an event at Liverpool's Static Gallery.[46] The pieces were inspired by three architectural sites from Merseyside history which no longer exist, and the tracks on the brittle X-ray pressings were designed to be "played once only before degrading, never to be played again".[47] The final copy of the X-ray vinyl was sold in December 2013 on eBay, with all proceeds going to the Philippines Typhoon Appeal.[48] A second performance in the series took place at the AV Festival in Newcastle in March 2012, inspired by demolished buildings in the north east.[49]

Dyymond of Durham, a collaborative project between Forest Swords and Bavaria's fine artist Otto Baerst, released a track on No Pain in Pop's vinyl compilation The Bedroom Club II in January 2013.[50]

Forest Swords is also a graphic designer, with work featured in Creative Review, Grafik, and Dazed & Confused.[39][51] He has mentioned in interviews that design and visual art are key influencers to his music.[52] A special edition of the Engravings album is available with an additional 20-page booklet of Barnes' original photography.[51] The cover artwork, designed by Barnes, was selected for Art Vinyl's 2013 Best Art Award,[53] and Pitchfork included it in their top 25 album covers of 2013.[54]


Studio albums
  • Engravings (Tri Angle Records, 2013)
  • Compassion (Ninja Tune under exclusive license from Dense Truth, 2017)
  • Fjree Feather (self-released, 2009, re-issue on No Pain in Pop in 2011)
  • Dagger Paths (Olde English Spelling Bee, 2010, expanded re-issued on No Pain in Pop)
  • Shrine: Original Dance Score (Dense Truth, 2016)
  • "Rattling Cage" (No Pain in Pop, 2010)
  • "Congregate/Free" (2017)


  1. ^ "The 40 Best Albums of 2010 – FACT Magazine: Music News, New Music". 30 November 2010. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  2. ^ "Forest Swords: Dagger Paths [Expanded Edition] | Album Reviews". Pitchfork. 1 December 2010. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  3. ^ "Staff Lists: The Top 50 Albums of 2010 | Features". Pitchfork. 16 December 2010. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  4. ^ Gibb, Rory (1 December 2010). "Album Review: Forest Swords – Dagger Paths / Releases / Releases // Drowned In Sound". Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  5. ^ "Dagger Paths by Forest Swords reviews". Any Decent Music. 22 November 2010. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  6. ^ "Hidden gems of 2010: the pop, world and jazz CDs you may have missed | Music | The Observer". Guardian. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  7. ^ "Engravings by Forest Swords reviews". Any Decent Music. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  8. ^ "The 50 Best Albums of 2013 Forest Swords – Engravings (Tri Angle) – Stereogum". Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  9. ^ "The Top 50 Albums of 2013". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  10. ^ "Clash's Top Albums of 2013: 30–21 | Features | Clash Magazine". Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  11. ^ Bulut, Selim (14 June 2013). "The 20 best albums of 2013 | Dummy". Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  12. ^ "2013: Favorite 50 Albums of 2013 | Staff Feature | Tiny Mix Tapes | Page 5". Tiny Mix Tapes. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  13. ^ "Nowness". Retrieved 2017-06-17. 
  14. ^ "Nowness". Retrieved 2017-06-17. 
  15. ^ "Listen: Lee "Scratch" Perry Remixes Forest Swords' "Thor's Stone" | News". Pitchfork. 27 November 2013. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  16. ^ "Forest Swords Announces New Album *Compassion*, Shares Video for New Track: Watch". 2017-03-30. Retrieved 2017-06-17. 
  17. ^ "Forest Swords returns with first new music in four years – hear 'The Highest Flood'". Retrieved 2017-06-17. 
  18. ^ "RA Reviews: Forest Swords - Compassion on Ninja Tune (Album)". Retrieved 2017-06-17. 
  19. ^ "Forest Swords - Compassion | DIY". 2017-05-05. Retrieved 2017-06-17. 
  20. ^ Joni Roome (2017-05-08). "Album Review: Forest Swords - Compassion". Retrieved 2017-06-17. 
  21. ^ Reef Younis. "Forest Swords - Compassion - Album review". Loud And Quiet. Retrieved 2017-06-17. 
  22. ^ Nathan Reese (2017-05-06). "Compassion Album Review". Retrieved 2017-06-17. 
  23. ^ "Forest Swords: Compassion". Retrieved 2017-06-17. 
  24. ^ Fredette, Meagan (2017-05-05). "Perfume Genius, Forest Swords, Black Lips, and more in this week's music reviews · Music Review · The A.V. Club". Retrieved 2017-06-17. 
  25. ^ "Forest Swords - Compassion | Reviews | Clash Magazine". 2009-10-17. Retrieved 2017-06-17. 
  26. ^ Ellman, Peter (2017-05-03). "Forest Swords Compassion". Retrieved 2017-06-17. 
  27. ^ "Forest Swords - Compassion (album review )". 2017-05-10. Retrieved 2017-06-17. 
  28. ^ "Forest Swords 'Compassion' - GIGsoup". Retrieved 2017-06-17. 
  29. ^ "Forest Swords - Compassion - Albums - Reviews". 2017-05-05. Retrieved 2017-06-17. 
  30. ^ "Album reviews: Broads, Forest Swords, Strangers, Clowns and Colin Stetson". 2017-05-11. Retrieved 2017-06-17. 
  31. ^ "Forest Swords - Compassion - Ninja Tune - Bleep - Your Source for Independent Music - Download MP3, WAV and FLAC, Buy Vinyl, CD and Merchandise". Retrieved 2017-06-17. 
  32. ^
  33. ^ "Articles: New Vocabulary | Features". Pitchfork. 15 November 2010. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  34. ^ "Freak Scene: Forest Swords and the Shifting Idea of Dub". The Fader. 7 June 2013. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  35. ^ 1 year ago (2015-11-30). "La Fête (est Finie) on Vimeo". Retrieved 2017-06-17. 
  36. ^ Customer (1970-01-01). "Buy cinema tickets for Liam Young & Forest Swords present In The Robot Skies | BFI London Film Festival 2016". Retrieved 2017-06-17. 
  37. ^ "Forest Swords "Shrine" - BOILER ROOM". Retrieved 2017-06-17. 
  38. ^ "Forest Swords: on the edge – FACT Magazine: Music News, New Music". 17 August 2010. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  39. ^ a b "Forest Swords: "I nearly gave up making music"". SevenStreets. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  40. ^ "How To Dress Well – Cold Nites | ABEANO | Page 5430". ABEANO. 29 July 2011. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  41. ^ "Stream: Haleek Maul, "Lobo" (Prod. by Forest Swords)". The Fader. 7 August 2013. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  42. ^ "BBC Radio 1 - Benji B, Forest Swords in session, Forest Swords in session". Retrieved 2017-06-17. 
  43. ^ "FACT mix 447: Forest Swords - FACT Magazine: Music News, New Music". Retrieved 2017-06-17. 
  44. ^ "Forest Swords soundtracks Assassin's Creed: Rogue trailer - FACT Magazine: Music News, New Music". Retrieved 2017-06-17. 
  45. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 5 May 2013. Retrieved 4 February 2016. 
  46. ^ "Forest Swords To Record New Music | News | Clash Magazine". 24 August 2011. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  47. ^ Nathan Jones (26 November 2010). "Samizdat on Forest Swords' – Ground Rhythms *newMERCYcomission* Mercy : Design Agency, Literature & Arts Collective : London / Liverpool : UK". Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  48. ^ "Forest Swords Auctions Special, One of a Kind Record For Charity | News | DIY". 4 December 2013. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  49. ^ "Various Artists: The Time is Out of Joint ‹ Events & Exhibitions ‹ AV Festival 12: As Slow As Possible ‹ Programme ‹ AV Festival". 24 March 2012. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  50. ^ "New Forest Swords project to feature on No Pain in Pop's Bedroom Club II compilation – FACT Magazine: Music News, New Music". 12 December 2012. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  51. ^ a b "Forest Swords's Epic Engravings | Dazed". Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  52. ^ "Interview: Forest Swords". The Fader. 28 August 2013. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  53. ^ "2013 Best Art Vinyl Nominations". Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  54. ^ Renaud, Michael (5 December 2013). "The Top 25 Album Covers of 2013". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 

External links[edit]