A Dead Forest Index
4 Track, EP (2010, Independent)
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Easily standing out amid a crowded marketplace, Melbourne’s A Dead Forest Index wears its uniqueness quietly and humbly. There’s nothing showy or bombastic about the musical duo of brothers Adam and Sam Sherry. The most dramatic thing the band does is litter a venue with candles when playing live, a touch that underscores the late-night atmosphere of its songs. On this second EP, the self-taught multi-instrumentalists stoke a gothic vibe while meditating over lyrics influenced more by Blake and other long-dead poets than anyone in rock. All of which makes the music seem, well, a bit like an antique.
Culled from recording sessions in Auckland intended for an album, the first three songs establish the duo’s minimal, choral palette. There’s no bass, drums only on the first two tracks, and sparing portions of guitar, organ, and other instruments. What takes centre stage, then, is Adam’s voice. On ‘Distance’, he begins with utter flatness before growing frayed enough to recall Kurt Cobain, of all people. His interest in repetition is clear early on, dwelling on the phrase “endlessly illuminated” and treating other vague, image-evoking lyrics with similar reverence. As soon as we get comfortable with this almost pop entry, it alters course to hang on two repeated phrases, eerily interwoven. Adam’s vocals carry a whiff of androgyny here, and between that and his lyrics, the song is at once catchy and arcane.
The a cappella ‘Under a Winter Sun’ is wide and open, commanding attention with harmonies and layered lead vocals alike. It sounds as if it could’ve been recorded in a castle. Captured live at a gig – not that you’d know it – ‘Turning’ is mostly comprised of a sustained harmonium hum and Adam’s droning, drawn-out singing. There’s a slight rustle of drums near the end, even as the rest drops away to trail an ambient wisp hanging in mid-air.
The individual elements aren’t so unusual, but the way A Dead Forest Index arranges them makes it all seem unearthly. The same goes for this entire EP, a quick yet lingering introduction to one of our country’s most interesting young bands.
by Doug Wallen