Album release: 'In All That Drifts Down From The Summit' by A Dead Forest Index
Release date: 29 April 2016
Label: Sargent House
More info: Band website
Landscapes both seen and felt, real and imagined, lie at the heart of 'In All That Drifts From Summit Down', the vast debut full-length release from nomadic duo A Dead Forest Index. Comprised of brothers Adam Sherry (vocals/guitar) and Sam Sherry (drums/piano), the group crafts ethereal and intensely intimate compositions that defy trends and labeling, instead shaping an aural experience as organic as it is unpredictable. Forsaking instrumental complexity in favor of richly dense vocals and an otherwise minimal palette, the band evokes heaviness with the atmosphere they create rather than through blunt force. Teaming-up with Sargent House on the heels of a recent European tour supporting labelmate Chelsea Wolfe, A Dead Forest Index are poised to introduce their sound to a global audience in 2016.
A Dead Forest Index was initially the solo project of Adam Sherry, begun in 2008. By 2010, it had evolved into a collaboration, with Sam Sherry supplying percussive depth to his brother’s distinctively hymnal approach to vocals, itself characterized by cyclical harmonies and experiments with drone. Untethered by place (or, for that matter, era), they’ve spent the past few years developing their sound, touring extensively between 2012-2014, and issuing the EPs “Antique” and “Cast of Lines” in the process. The latter was released by Jehnny Beth of Savages’ Pop Noire label, a precursor to the collaborative Savages/A Dead Forest Index composition and performance titled “In What I’m Seeing; the Sun” for the Barbican’s Station to Station Festival in 2015.
Though basing themselves periodically in locales as far-flung as Melbourne and London, the oceanic grandeur of A Dead Forest Index’s songs suggests a spiritual mooring in their homeland of New Zealand. Their influences are rich and untapped: the poetic, archaic ‘deep song’ of Indian and Andalusian origin, Romanian lăutari troupe Taraf de Haidouks, and the allegorical symbolism found in William Blake have all been cited as antecedents. The group have themselves been compared to The Velvet Underground with Nico, Scott Walker, Swans with Jarboe, and Antony and the Johnsons, to name a few.
'In All That Drifts From Summit Down', their debut album, is a testimony to the sublime divinity of nature and the cold reality of time’s passage. Unfolding over 13 tracks, the album imagines natural phenomena as poetic metaphor for the human condition, the lyrics evoking stone, cold air, unyielding emptiness and erosion, while the enveloping warmth of Adam Sherry’s layered, choral vocals makes for an intriguing contrast. 'Cast of Lines' is a prime example of this, its rapturous 'In all our currents / a fog upon the sea at night' mantra accompanied by little more than a strumming guitar. Sam Sherry’s steady rhythms propel some tracks, like 'Tide Walks' and 'No Paths'. 'Ringing Sidereal', on the other hand, unwinds more slowly, a dark cavern of a song with flickering sparks of percussion emerging only where necessary. Occasionally swells of noise take shape. On 'In Greyness the Water', a slow-building churn buffers the repeating 'In… fall… colour' chorus that penetrates through the cacophony like spires through fog. Savages guitarist Gemma Thompson guests on two tracks, providing a wiry undercurrent to the brilliant postpunk stomp of 'Myth Retraced', before fortifying the processional stride of 'Sand Verse'. 'In All That Drifts Down From The Summit' is a potent, compelling statement, an exercise in restraint and severity whose icy hue only accentuates the warmth at its core.
A Dead Forest Index epitomize the possibilities of the modern age. Weaving threads of disparate influence from around the world into a captivating tapestry, the duo exemplify their own transience, producing mature, wholly inspired work unbound by time or place.