Forest Fire (Record Release Party!)

Forest Fire (Record Release Party!)

New York City’s Forest Fire, led by vocalist/songwriter Mark Thresher, return with Screens. With their new full-length, Forest Fire - now the quartet of Thresher, Natalie Stormann, Galen Bremer, and Robert Pounding - have found it.

“It” has been hinted at in previous releases - e.g. the howling languor of “Slow Motion”, from the band’s debut Survival (named Rough Trade Shops’ top album of the year for 2010), or vitreous midtempo dejection ballad “The News” from 2011’s FatCat-issued Staring at the X (“You won’t get far,” Thresher sang, “with that look in your eyes”) - but Screens is pure lightning.

After some lineup adjustments that left the band leaner and more centered, Forest Fire partnered with engineer Jonathan Schenke (Parquet Courts, Dirty Beaches) - the first time they’d worked with an outside engineer in a proper studio - to uncoil sonic possibilities they’d before only touched on, and to enable their new songs to breathe and stretch out.

That stretching out is quite literal in the case of album centerpiece “Annie,” an eleven-minute track that is wide but not sprawling, buoyed by motorik lope and bouncing synths, grounded by vocal spits and hisses. The song exemplifies the atmosphere of a record that the band acknowledges owes a debt to the late ‘70s output of not only Kraftwerk but Yoko Ono, Television, Joy Division, Patti Smith, Laurie Anderson, and their ilk; Sandy Skoglund’s iconic 1977 photograph Pink Sink is the cover.

From its darker, sparser, sonic landscapes, obsession with analog instrumentation, and movement-focused, heavily metaphorical lyrics, Screens finds Forest Fire hewing to this mood. But for all the record’s gratitude to the past, its aesthetic is just as much forward-looking, able to embrace the sunrise hooks of anthemic album opener “Waiting in the Night” and the Suicide-spooky synth-drone of “Cold Kind” as easily as “Alone with the Wires”’s jangly stride and Leonard Cohen-frosted vocal delivery.

Stormann explains, “We choose the title Screens because of the prevalence of screens in our everyday life (literal ones like television screens, computer screens, phone screens, and metaphorical ones that distort our view of reality) and because art/music is a screen between the artist and the audience.” As a metaphor, it’s both inward and external - Forest Fire cloaks raw human roughness in blankets of synth and drone - and speaks to the same retro-futuristic dystopianism that haunted the musicians they looked to on Screens, that haunts us now more sharply than ever.

Shilpa Ray

backwords blends modern psychedelics with folk rock, 60s pop and a myriad other sonic surprises. Like a bluebird fluttering through the prairie, backwords delivers gentle, lazy melodies that stick to the tongue and cannot be forgotten. And like a vigilant hawk nesting atop a New York skyscraper, there is a fury—a swooping darker underside that backwords explores at the drop of a dime. It is and is not quite The Beach Boys meeting Daniel Johnston meeting The Velvet Underground meeting Wilco and all sharing a mellow joint…

Based out of Brooklyn, backwords is rooted in city grit but rides the concrete waves with a cowboy’s heart. The band is a regular fixture of the New York City scene and has played countless gigs over the last three years at venues and spaces such as Mercury Lounge, Cake Shop, Glasslands, Sycamore, Cameo Gallery, The American Folk Art Museum, etc. They have played official showcases at 2009, 2010 and 2011′s CMJ Music Marathon as well as 2010′s Northside Festival and were recently named a “Top 10 Emerging Artist” in the “Alt-Folk” category by The Deli Magazine NYC.

backwords has toured the United States extensively in the past few years from NYC to LA and has played with such bands as: These United States, Le Loup, Freelance Whales, Dinosaur Feathers, Darwin Deez, Warpaint, Pepi Ginsberg, Tiny Animals, Country Mice, The Beets, Shark?, The Old Ceremony, The Deep Dark Woods, Craft Spells, Hosannas, Spirit Family Reunion, Turbo Fruits, Pujol, Radical Dads etc…

Their upcoming album (Spring 2012 release), “By the Neck,” takes new twists and psychedelic turns as it explores fresh creative territory mixing surf garage sounds with Pink Floyd spazz-outs and gentle Byrds-like vocal layers. It is an album that works cohesively as a whole yet can be picked apart for its catchy, finger tapping individual tracks. It is both vintage and excitingly new at the same time.


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