Forest Swords: Bolted

Rebecca Varidel
6th Sep 2023



ALONGSIDE NEW VIDEO/p> Forest Swords (aka electronic producer/composer Matthew Barnes) returns to announce his new album Bolted out Friday 20 October on Ninja Tune. Having spent the past few years working as an in-demand composer and sound designer - writing music for ballet, film and video games, Bolted was recorded over the past year in a warehouse factory space in Barnes’ home city of Liverpool. Across its 11 tracks he dives deeper into his unique sonic vocabulary to weave together a set of tracks that sounds equally muscular and bleak, haunting and euphoric.

As ever in his music, melancholy and euphoria, monochrome and colour, past and future all feel ambiguous. Emotions shift from moment to moment, differences between digital and acoustic instruments more smeared than ever: a queering of time, space and sonics that feels equally playful and totally vital. 

Alongside the announcement comes The Low, a moody, metallic trip hop single lifted from the album.

"’The Low’ was based on a beat I’d originally intended for Yoko Ono, and features elements I made both at the start and end of the album, so ties together a lot of the sounds and emotions I was exploring during the writing process. The accompanying video directed with Sam Wiehl expands on some of my artwork and visual world that accompanies the record" Barnes comments of the track.

The Low arrives shortly after the release of Barnes' Butterfly Effect single - part industrial electronica, part greyscale pop, shifting Forest Swords' world deeper into murkier, more paranoid territory, with a previously-unheard vocal sample by the legendary singer-songwriter Neneh Cherry. Upon its release the single received support from the likes of Pitchfork, FADER, DJ Mag, Stereogum, Clash, Line of Best Fit, Dork and more. 

While his previous album - the acclaimed Compassion released in 2017 - saw Barnes toy with widescreen technicolour, the world of Bolted is tightly wound, taught, with a sense of aching urgency like never before. Fizzing deconstructed synths, heavily distorted mallets and marimbas bounce off clattering beats and foggy vocals, all balanced out with lightly dancing woodwind instruments; a layer of dust covering the surface of every track. 

Elsewhere on Bolted we hear Munitions, a chugging industrial throb-kick of a track; the End, a song of melancholic nostalgia; then finally, we plunge into the psychedelic pounding of urgent closer Line Gone Cold, a rumination on grief with a sign-off from the late Lee Scratch Perry.

Defiant, desolate, and darkly beautiful: Bolted cements Forest Swords as one of the most remarkable and singular voices working in electronic music.

Bolted by Forest Swords
is out October 20 on Ninja Tune

Forest Swords

1. Munitions 
2. Butterfly Effect
3. Rubble
4. Night Sculpture
5. Caged
6. Tar
7. The Low
8. Chain Link
9. Hjope
10. End 
11. Line Gone Cold