The ascendant producer delivers an immersive debut album for Livity Sound.
Livity Sound is a label with minimalism at its heart. It may not be the obvious kind of sonic reduction you'd expect from a Säkhö record or a Kevin Drumm drone piece, but the motivation of Peverelist and Kowton in particular has been towards music that makes its point with the fewest possible tools. It's a continuous quest for interesting but uncluttered weapons that will exact maximum impact on the dance, in the long-standing tradition of soundsystem culture. Joe Baker, AKA Forest Drive West, suits this ethos perfectly. His releases for Livity, Hidden Hawaii, Neighbourhood, Rupture London and Appian have embraced jungle as much as techno, but retained an outsiders' signature that has served his reputation well. Now his debut album builds on that signature with a collection as understated as it is impressive.
Naming the record Apparitions feels like a decisive move. A ghostly ambience has helped imbue the existing Forest Drive West catalogue with a sense of distance, detachment and otherworldliness. Across the album's eight tracks, those same wraith-like pads and spectral reverb decays abound. The squelchy synth notes dripping over "Phaze-Shift" have billowing, flanging tails that melt into tonal snowdrifts at the far end of the mix. The pointed echo drop on "Vertigo" casts a haunted shroud over snagging barbs of inventive percussion.
On "Transmission," the combination of airy, shimmering chord clouds and insistent low-end throb call to mind Appleblim and Peverelist's evergreen "Circling"—both tracks master the art of subtlety and patience as a path to musical transcendence. Baker's outsider instinct aligns with other left-of-centre producers as well. "Circles" has the kind of spooky atmosphere, dubby flourishes and clanking house groove STL has spent years rolling out, albeit not as dirty and distorted.
Baker has explored jungle in depth on other releases (most notably for Rupture London), but on Apparitions these influences come through more obliquely. The urgent twitch of opening track "Cut And Run" owes more to footwork and electro than to jungle, but it bookends nicely with "Cannibal," a masterful parting shot, and the only other track surpassing 150 BPM.
One of the true standout moments on Apparitions is "Particles In Motion," the sole ambient piece. This is a classic approach for a beat-oriented producer to take—a bath of dubby ripples and gently played synth tones—but as it builds and the background hums creep forward, it takes on an emotional heft that isn't obvious at the start. The same is true of Baker's music in general. Given the space to unfold properly, his craft reveals itself as a delicate exercise in modern beat science. In its subtle execution it could easily slip under the radar, passing by anyone without the ears to hear it.
Tracklist01. Cut And Run
07. Particles In Motion