Pretty, dark, and often bleak, the music of Forest Swords (England’s Matthew Barnes) is inarguably something to get lost in. Weaving an intricate, alluring web of trip-hop, psych, dub, and electronica, Engravings picks up quite nicely where Forest Swards’ Fjree Feather EP earlier in the year left off. Muted tom drums, echoing vocal wisps, muffled Mellotron, and what could be glistening charango (or perhaps oud) strings are but a few of the tools that paint Forest Sword’s rhythm-based dreamscapes, which this time around aren't quite as menacing. The mechanized, amorphous ghosts of “Onward” and the organic, Middle Eastern–inflected sounds of “Ljoss” aren’t as unsettling as they are mesmerizing; the glorious choir interrupting the chopped, looped vocals on “Gathering” and the haunting female vocals on “Anneka’s Battle” are prime examples of beauty winning over bleak. “Thor’s Stone,” “The Weight of Gold,” and “Friend, You Will Never Learn” are stunning tracks of clarity and esoteric adventure that listeners will return to again and again.

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