Future Of Forestry Pages, Stripped back more than ever before, but keeping most of the elements that make Forestry so special, this is a turn in direction. The duets here are so sensual at the start that I almost feel like I’m intruding.

Label:  Sound Swan Records
Time:  14 tracks / 58 mins.

This release is simultaneously very recognisably Future of Forestry, yet something completely fresh, and is so from the very beginning.

After an initial acoustic guitar opening, “Hold my Hand” finds FoF main man Eric Owyoung sharing tender vocals with newcomer Alina Kamilchu. The pair continues this is in other fairly unplugged pieces like the spine-tingling “Please Let Me Be” (built on a spare piano arpeggio and equally spare long resonant notes) and the vulnerable “Learn to Love.”  The chemistry works beautifully, both in their vocal timbres and the way the harmonies are arranged.

But this is not a different album because it’s acoustic. Second track “By the Water” has an upsurge of a chorus, with plenty of electrics to give it power.

Overall, though, this is as acoustic as Forestry has been so far, and the consistent duets give the intimate atmosphere time to breathe. “Learn to Love” floats on a cumulus cloud of strings.

Owyoung is a master of sound. Eschewing the obvious, he tweaks textures, chords and harmonies to get them just right. With a steel guitar here and a cello there, running into tinkling piano lines, he creates a spacious, warm sound with a subtly resonant bottom end. It serves to support an almost unerring sense of melody (best shown in songs like “Fireflies).

Lyrically, Owyoung treads a typically translucent path: light shines through the words, but not clearly enough to make out his purpose. There seems to be much about love and relationships, with hints of new directions, risk, healing and freedom. It is many years since his divorce, but it could almost be a collection of songs written in its wake. These lines from “Learn to Love” capture the mood:

“We were broken by the wind / We were fragile and we faltered
We were silent we were bound / So grace be kind to us

Here we learn to speak a word / We learn to hear the still unspoken
Here we quicken to forgive  / and leave the rest to be a mystery
For us...a world for us.”

Or does this set do it better?

“Time it passed without heed
Tossing us into an undertow of uncharted need...
Change took charge with a spark
It left us here wondering where we came from
As we felt through the dark
But a flame became a first light.”

With such excellent tracks at the start, it tails off a little towards the end, maybe because it could do with a little more instrumental colour or some other variety by this stage; so a slowed-down duet of Cyndi Lauper’s much-covered “Time after Time” just after the halfway mark piques the interest at a good time. He has already offered his own track with strong pop sensibilities in “Portland.”

Always looking for fresh twists on the Forestry sound, this is another strong release with a beautifully mellow mood. I have said before that Future of Forestry has never released a bad album. I’ve still not changed my mind.

Derek Walker

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