The Forest Wall - The EP
Record Label: TurnKey Records
Release Date: August 2nd, 2011
What's immediately striking about The Forest Wall's debut extended play, The EP, is that from the moment the beautiful and elegant electronically layered and enhanced vocal harmonies of Amanda Salazar fluctuate with precision on the opening track; you're able to hear the candid sincerity and unrelenting emotion within every individual note played and lyric sung thereafter. What makes this debut release from The Forest Wall all the more impressive is the fact that it was written, engineered, mixed and eventually produced entirely by the band themselves. To capture such a beautiful and captivating atmosphere is a testament to their musical abilities and prowess. The project was carefully and painstakingly written over the course and duration of the year from locations varying between Pennsylvania and Washington, DC - but it seems somewhat fitting that after covering such a distance in order to gather the necessary inspiration it took to write the record, the siblings then chose to record this enchanting five-track release enclosed in the inner sanctums of their Frederick, Maryland based apartment. Elapsing at slightly over an eighteen minute duration, The EP proves to be a luscious listening experience built firmly upon the foundations of intelligent songwriting, thought-provoking lyrics, lovely harmonic interchangeable male/female vocals, and rich, vibrant textures and arrangements.
The album opens on a positive minor key note with the sensational "Canon", featuring an introduction consisting of female vocal overdubs and brooding harmonization. It doesn't take a prolonged amount of time before the vocal effects dance and weave out of the mix in order to be replaced with prominent and graceful melancholic inducing guitar tones and captivating piano notes. There's the odd rhythmic drumbeat entangled in the instrumentation, but rather than hinder the balance of the arrangements and structures that have been implemented, it creates a blissful, beautiful and emotionally cascading cinematic sequence of music. Derek Salazar's deep vocals soon enter into proceedings in a seamless fashion as though he's mastered the art and technical aspect of allowing his vocals to gently float mesmerizingly on top of many a haunting, slow-tempo ballad. Without doubt, the chorus is where the track begins to soar and blossom with all the cadence and conviction it can possibly generate and muster. The siblings each take turns to sing various lines before eventually overlapping and intertwining flawlessly- it culminates in irresistible interplay induced melodies rising high over the top of cryptic wordplay. "And we walk alone / somehow we found some comfort along this open road / and we walk alone / we'll find what it takes to earn the right to call this life our own".
"Does It Make A Sound?" serves as an intricate balance between indie/pop and a slight tantalizing hint at an ambient and atmospheric texture. No sooner does the initial second elapse before Amanda Salazar's vocals can be heard waltzing and flowing throughout the opening verse. The chorus once again proves to be the highlight while showcasing The Forest Wall's effortless knack for capturing gorgeous and irresistible melodies. As the track progresses, the instrumentation gradually has more prominence and there are noticeable, slightly distorted eerie hymn-like harmonies ever present in the background. Arguably the most enduring aspect of the track is in how well the two distinctive and unique vocal deliveries complement one another as the two voices sing in contemplative unison, "If a tree falls down and no one is around to hear it / tell me, does it make a sound?". The harmonies are certainly a redeeming quality, and some of the best of the year can be heard, and are featured throughout the duration of The EP.
"Spanish Skies" and "Suitcase Son" succeed in slowing down the tempo to a bare, calm and descending minimum. The former in particular is memorable for its elegant strumming patterns and finger-picking acoustic guitar techniques. During certain sections of the song you can hear barely audible disturbances in the background such as the flicking of switches and various other recording measures taking place as Amanda Salazar delivers arguably her finest vocal performance you're likely to hear on the record. It's a lovely reminder as to the authenticity of the production and the careful approach these musicians took to crafting a body of work to this wonderfully high standard and quality. During the middle portions of the track, we're treated to a brief interlude of piano and swift strings both vying for supremacy before the attention is once again switched back to the dual vocal technique that serve the duo well. "Suitcase Son" expands on the same formula but also features a fluctuating tempo that explores the softer elements of a stirring ballad through to a sound reminiscent of moderately heavy riffs and pulsating drumbeats.
The one slight misstep is album closer, "In The Pines". It's not that it's a bad track, but it gives the impression of being left unproduced and unpolished which comes as somewhat of a surprise when compared to the previous four tracks that came before it. However, it is a lovely moment to hear vocals crack with strain and tension during the higher and more strenuous notes. The Forest Wall are vastly unknown at this relatively infant stage in their music career, but one can only hope that they're looking at continuing this musical project and endeavor well into the future. The talent is certainly there, as is best exemplified by the contents within The EP. Now they just need an audience, and I'm sure they'd be delighted and appreciative if you happened to be one of them.