Last year a particularly potent record came out of Christopher King’s solo project Symbol, called Online Architecture. It focused heavily on the nature of urban environments, those lonely and soulless concrete labyrinthes left in the wake of its advance and how they could be filled with people but still somehow feel like they were devoid of life; that’s what I took away from it at least, in its thin guitar drones and distant synth melodies. Forest Management’s latest record Encounter seems to invite some of the same sensations as the excellent aforementioned album; not only does it find itself in a similar sonic vein but it seems to tell a related story of another world, the virtual or the digital, that is itself enormously populated and dense but sparsely filled with love, the lonely listener consumed in this alternate world but left feeling hollow and empty here, where it truly matters, solace only being found when it’s left behind.
Opener “Memory Internal” opens out to stretches of slow and measured drone lines, their presence lightly obfuscated in a delicate fuzz of lo-fi processing and reverb to pave the way for the record to come. They feel deliberate and luxurious and despite how dark and quiet it feels throughout there’s a tantalising hint of space behind it, a size and complexity hidden behind this hazy divide as some crooning electronica floats through from the backfield. Suggestive of this online world and the memories of events we have within it, it’s followed by the aptly titled “World Frozen On A Screen”, a sadly beautiful creation that sees watery synth reverb ping out through the lightweight, fluorescent glow of the drones in the fore, its repetitive nature yearning after the perfection displayed through these images, these untouchable and unreachable places and goals separated from us by mere pixels and our sad imagination.
The last of this virtual triplet “Artificial Emotions (Relapse)” sees a deeper and more melancholic effort than the previous two; it’s similarly crooning in its backfield but is thicker, denser and more echoic, almost lost in its introspections, than its predecessors. It drifts along imperceptibly, floating in melancholia and frozen in time, its gorgeous movements feeling like they slip away as fast as they arrived. As such the album begins to take things into its own hands and enact change, and our opener’s counterpart “Memory External” is somewhat of a different beast as a result, opening on huge and distant rumblings, some catastrophic upheaval occurring in some far away corner unfolding ominously before it’s subverted by wholly lighter and warmer currents of softly shifting drones, the life rushing back as we disconnect ourselves and embrace a much needed return to reality. We take a trip to “Top Floor View/1.75” and gaze out over the city lights, a degree of clarity and sharpness not seen thus far as it turns quietly over in repetitious movements, its gaze defocused and bleary but oddly pleasant and filled with a newfound hopefulness.
Where is love? Where are the friendships? “Closer Than You Think” says our final excursion in this surprisingly short and cathartic expedition; it pulsates and oscillates in the same fashion as its forebears but has a strength and density reflective of the world it exists within rather than the one it chooses to see, a world filled with people and opportunity rather than cool distance and loneliness, each surge of warped drone bringing us closer to the happiness and warmth we crave as it eases its way out on lush and shining electronica. It’s a great and almost poetic closer that really fills its six minute span, and although it does still slip innocuously away at least there’s still some lingering sense of change and light optimism.
I wont say that I think the instrumentation is anything particularly novel; it’s a bit esoteric to define but as I say it’s deeply reminiscent of other fringe Dark Ambient productions like Symbol and EUS and has a strong sense of warped guitar work about it but it’s got a great thematic device even if perhaps it’s something I’ve just projected onto it. It feels consistent and well crafted, softly immersing the listener in its woes and subtly evolving into more brighter sequences towards its conclusion and really creating a great sense of emotional as well as physical space in its quietly vast production. Touching and relevant in the modern day, and a few copies of the limited edition vinyl release are still available; perhaps you can be convinced to pick up this great record: