If I was to say the skies darkened over and thunderous rain poured down as soon as I put this record on, please do not take this as a negative. Forest Bees by Forest Bees is a beast but it is also a beauty. In fact, it’s an absolute monster of a record. It just also happens to sound like it’s been made by a group of very wet, very aquatic sirens lurking in the gloom and luring you towards your doom. In a good way.
Forest Bees is the solo project of Sheetal Singh operating out of San Francisco. Singh has conjured up the ghost of the tragically recently lost Andrew Weatherall, specifically his work with My Bloody Valentine and dalliances with the ethereal ’90s UK shoegaze scene [it comes as no surprise she is ex of The Stratford 4]. Yet it sounds fresh. This is no teary-eyed eulogy. It sounds like little if anything else out there at the moment. It has echoes but is very much of its own right now. It’s disembodied and disconnected with its reverb-happy chugging beats, dream-like [perhaps nightmare-like] vocals and icy keyboards. It’s like being at a downtempo, contemplative rave on the tundra at night. In winter.
“I don’t want to live, I don’t want to die“, is the refrain on opener ‘Alexa‘ and pretty accurately suggests the direction from the get-go. This is music from Limbo. Pooshka, train-track percussion drags you through the hazy netherworld in a slightly worrying yet alluring fashion. It’s strange stuff but utterly compelling.
If you’re into Nordic Giants or Fever Ray, and you should be, you’ll get the idea. Like them, Fever Bees conjure up a complete and fully realised world within one record. It may be a collection of quacks, burbles, sweeping keyboards, hellish synths, otherworldly vocals and sometimes galloping percussion but, like the siren and her buddies, it’s a party you want to attend, despite it being worlds away from the warmth of most dancefloors. There’s no cosy embrace here. It’s a clammy hand but it’s an extraordinarily stylish one.
As ‘Subvertor Of Geography‘ says, it’s, “under the surface, wasting away“. There’s a reek of decay about this whole affair. Inward looking and contemplative it nonetheless manages to be a collection of great beauty and, ultimately, optimism.
A tremendous effort.