Oldham-born actress/singer/composer, Keeley Forsyth, blindsided us all at the beginning of 2020 with her debut album, Debris.
On Debris, Forsyth adopted her native northern landscapes as inspirations to shape her bewitching fractured folk offerings. In summary, nothing released in 2020 sounds like it.
Ending the year in the way in which she started, the Photograph EP is a reminder that Forsyth hasn’t just used the art form of music as a temporary itch that she finally got to scratch. The songstress is here to stay for a while yet.
Photograph unfurls to the point where Keeley chooses not to shake off the shadows but instead embraces them.
The eponymous track leads things off. A haunting ambient sprawl of soft strings and warm drones with Forsyth extruding a powerful body blow of abstract poeticism – “the words are the weight of bricks”. It’s very much what we’ve come to expect from Keeley Forsyth, but the song itself contains a more anxious intensity than the songs from Debris. Hard to imagine, but true none the less.
Unravelling is a freakish piano-led ballad, fractured in darkness and minimilism. “I always know when you are here/From inside me pulling me out to a better place,” mumbles Forsyth. It’s the sort of song inspired by the thick sheets of darkness one would find travelling across the M62 deep into the bowels of winter.
“How many times do I woke up on glass/How many times do I pass over head/I looked up and her face was gone/Just a pile of circling dust/Spinning in the last wash of light.” Again Forsyth‘s beguiling tales dominate Glass – a brooding array of synth-based sounds underneath spoken-word dread. While Photograph may take the plaudits from the EP, Glass feels more like the epicentre of it.
As its title suggests, Stab contains yet another cold-eyed delivery that whips up an atmosphere of misery. It’s the kind of song Lingua Ignota could have produced in slow-motion. But Forsyth creates something beguiling here, guiding us through the dark northern furrows into the great unknown.
With Photograph, Forsyth ends the year emphatically. Debris was an album that made her audience go back every so often, unravelling new depths with each listen. It’s not something immediate. It’s music that makes the listener work and like Debris, Photograph follows a similar path, albeit in a shorter serving. It’s yet another victory for the country’s most arcane musical mind.
Photograph is out now via The Leaf Label.