Reviewing the music of an artist who knows his stuff as Tobin Dack clearly does is in many ways daunting for a critic. It's like reading a presentation in front of the hard ass professor who made your life hell but whose respect you secretly crave. Dack is big on equipment, as is usual with gear heads, so I'm just going to copy and paste his logistics: "Forests utilizes my Korg MS2000, Sequential Circuits Six Trak, Emu XL7 Synthesizer, ZOOM drum machine and guitar. After programming and creating the sounds using my various pieces of gear, I recorded it layer by layer into Cubase and mixed and mastered it with the help of some friends. I also recorded my vocals into the computer and used Cubase to chop up and glitch out the samples."
The album owes some of its whimsical sound to Dack's love of folklore, in particular fairies. Leanan Sidhe is also referenced, a being who torments artists and musicians into getting so exhumed with creativity they they burn in ash and never get their work done. I think Sidhe missed his chance with Dack; the elements in Forests are perfectly controlled, gentle wrought and not so overambitious as to be distracting. The overall feel of the album is not particularly dynamic, but very soothing and it must be said there are many exotic sounds that filter in and out of audio memory. From samples of reed pipes, woodwind instruments, tribal drumming, glossy synthesizers, the list goes on as if Dack were challenging himself to fit as many noises as the human ear can pick up. He is the teacher, the audience his students.
And you know, there is a communal vibe you can hear in this music, like this sound is meant to be enjoyed with others. "Dew Buds," for example, has the sort of experimental beat procession that makes me think of collaborations and drum circles. "One-eyed Lemur Dreamer" is a tour through cloudy synth lines, murmurs of rhythm that fade in and out of the sunlight. This is one of the best songs on the album, with bubbly sound clips slowly rising higher and higher until it fades into a peaceful electronic reverie. The album is rarely boring, though I take issue with the seemingly pointless last track "Fullmoon Maple" with its lazily concocted sounds bubbling up every now and then for a long five minutes. Forests is definitely not an album you'd want to wander into if you're not familiar with experimental electronic music. The listen is rewarding, make no mistake, but it tries your patience and only the most devout pupils of sound wizardry will be able to make it through all of this in one sitting. Dack is currently still working on the Umbrella Cloud Festival, an ambient/electronic/drone hullaballoo. After listening to this I hope it takes off.
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