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Hippie-Folk, Folk, Acid Folk:

Forest - 1969 - Forest


01. Bad Penny
02. A Glade Somewhere
03. Lovemaker's Ways
04. While You're Gone
05. Sylvie (We'd Better Not Pretend)
06. A Fantasy You
07. Fading Light
08. Do You Want Some Smoke
09. Don't Want To Go
10. Nothing Else Will Matter
11. Mirror Of Life
12. Rain Is On My Balcony

Forest released two albums, the first in 1969 which is not reputed to have sold well but certainly enabled the release of the second album in 1970. Interestingly a single was released in 1969 which pared 'Searching for Shadows' which was not on either album and 'Mirror of Life' which was on the first.

All of this would mark the band as an obscurity of only minor interest until you listen to their music. Immediately it becomes apparent that this is not traditional folk music as we know it, there are no old songs, the performances are not simple renditions. Equally this is not folk-rock, the dynamics are not straight forward, there is little rhythmic emphasis. Instead we have a surreal evocation of the hidden parts of a lost pagan existence concerned with the remote, strange dark aspects of earlier life. It is like listening to ancient folklore given voice in the same way that Arthur Machen often in books like 'The Novel of the Black Seal' gave a glimpse of the same hidden parts of Britain in writing.

The songs are loosely normal in that they use conventional verse and chorus and have normal instruments such as guitar and harmonica. This may evoke Bob Dylan and while his surreal word play might be a reference point musically this has little in common. Of more direct influence seems to be the impish instability of Syd Barrett in the early Pink Floyd line-up and the nonsensical lyrics of their first album.

Vocals are in harmony, weaving around each other, nasal, sometimes atonal but carrying twisting and evolving melodies. This is not music with an ounce of compromise, it has a vision and clear intent. In this respect like their closest peers Incredible String Band they can initially be quite a daunting listen. It's perhaps a given here that they won't be appreciated by everyone (or perhaps even all folk fans) being such a unique proposition. Although there are not a huge amount of layers it is quite individual, unique and vividly intense. This intensity can be intimidating but as you sit and listen the harmonies, melodies and arrangements are gradually revealed.

There is a church like element to some of the songs like early hymns and the use of pipe and reed organs within the sound can reinforce this. The guitars pick out chiming and mysterious patterns. A listener may feel they are hearing a riddle that they cannot initially understand, there are no drums or bass guitars and the lyrics while evocative often reveal little. Some songs like 'Rain On My Balcony' or 'Do You Want Some Smoke?' have a playful Puckish quality.

With the use of mandolin and pipes the sound often evokes nature as though giving the mischievous mythical figure of Pan breath. Interestingly these instruments often associated with Celtic music here are assumed into a purely English folk sound that combines psychedelia with acoustic instruments (and no doubt soft drugs). Song structures often twist and turn, sections appear giving way to others before returning. There is a whimsical surreal edge as though listening through a dream. Although it is highly unlikely that folk music of previous centuries sounded like this, somehow these eras are directly evoked on the first album in songs like 'A Fantasy You' and 'A Glade Somewhere'.

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8.7.08 17:21

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notna (8.7.08 17:48)
I'm using a fast internet connection since a short while. In this period you helped broaden my musical vision. Even though the mf's from the music industry won't believe it, blogs like these will help me spending my cd budget in a responsible way.

Thanks, Notna

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