Keeley Forsyth — Debris (17 Jan., 2020)
Location: Harrogate, UK
Album release: 17 January 2020
Record Label: The Leaf Label
1. Debris 2:44
2. Black Bull 3:07
3. It’s Raining 4:28
4. Look To Yourself 4:54
5. Lost 2:41
6. Butterfly 3:44
7. Large Oak 2:24
8. Start Again 3:27
★ Keeley Forsyth — voice
★ Sam Hobbs — Fender Rhodes, synthesisers, drums & percussion, programming
★ Mark Creswell — guitar, bass
★ Matthew Bourne — piano, harmonium, LAMM Memorymoog, cello
★ All songs written by Keeley Forsyth (copyright control)
★ Lyrics by Keeley Forsyth/bAs (copyright control/Mute Song)
★ Song arrangements & additional composition by Sam Hobbs (copyright control), Mark Creswell (copyright control) & Matthew Bourne (Mute Song)
★ Produced & mixed by Sam Hobbs at rebel elements, Wharfedale
★ Mastered by Lewis Hopkin at Stardelta
★ Photography by Maria Alzamora
★ Artwork by Split
♦ The songs comprising Keeley Forsyth’s debut are, she states simply, “like blocks of metal that drop from the sky.”
♦ With its minimal arrangements placing her recollections and dissections of sometimes harrowing experiences front and centre, Debris showcases her elemental voice and an outpouring of candid, haunting lyrics detailing the seismic ruptures which take place behind closed doors. “There was a lot going on in my life that was heavy and hard,” she adds. “Songs were made under that moment.”
♦ Born and raised in Oldham, Forsyth first made her name as an actor, and while the creation of music has been a constant feature in her life, she’s taken the long road to its release. A deeply intuitive and singular musician, she began writing several years ago, accompanying herself on harmonium and accordion.
♦ “I came up with lots of songs in a very short space of time,” Forsyth recalls. “Most songs were written in the time it took to sing them. But I held them close, and often thought I needed to do something with them. It never felt right to go out and look for it. I felt like I needed to wait and move when I felt inspired.”
♦ That inspiration struck one evening while listening to the radio, where she first encountered pianist and composer Matthew Bourne’s work. “I heard his music and suddenly I could hear them both together,” she says of her songs and his compositions. “I felt compelled to write to him. He got straight back and said he loved what I was doing.” What followed were quick and instinctive collaborations with Bourne and producer and musician Sam Hobbs, with the initial burst of momentum Forsyth felt when writing carried through into the studio, preserving the intricacies and accidents that make an album human.
♦ “The new Scott Walker.” — The Guardian
♦ “Debris is an astonishing debut, not just for the power of the songs, but for the journey they trace.” — ★★★★ Uncut
♦ “Reminiscent of Nico, or Karen Dalton, Beth Gibbons at the edges — leaving the deepest impression.” — ★★★★ Mojo
♦ “This deeply melancholic brand of haunting, sparse folk is as intoxicating as it is unsettling.” — ★★★★ Q
♦ “It may be only January, but Debris gives the overwhelming impression that one of the defining releases of 2020 may already be upon us.” — ★★★★½ Music OMH
♦ “Debris can join Nick Cave’s last two albums as the soundtrack to your loneliest moments, the hand you will want to grasp when you come apart, a voice that will touch your sadness and change your world tonight.” — ★★★★½ God Is In The TV
♦ “This is a boldly honest and startling debut.” — The Quietus
by John Murphy
published: 16 Jan 2020; Score: ★★★★½
♦ The tale of an actor turning their hand to music is an old one, but Keeley Forsyth seems to be going about things rather differently to how you’d expect.
♦ Forsyth may not be a household name (indeed, you’re more likely to be familiar with her brother, ex~Emmerdale actor and current Strictly Come Dancing champion Kelvin Fletcher), but she’s spent the last 25 years steadily building up a respectable CV as a character actor with appearances on shows like Happy Valley, Heartbeat and The Casual Vacancy, as well as being covered in prosthetics for Guardians Of The Galaxy.
♦ But her debut album, Debris, is miles away from the cosy familiarity of Heartbeat. At times reminiscent of the experimental folk of Vashti Bunyan or Joanna Newsom, it’s a disorientating journey that can leave one feeling uneasy or spooked, but it’s a journey you can’t help making again and again.
♦ The arrangements on Debris — composed with the assistance of Matthew Bourne and Sam Hobbs — are minimal and understated, which means that Forsyth’s voice is displayed to its best advantage. That voice is pretty extraordinary, a deep, rich vibrato which nods towards Nico or ANOHNI, that sounds like it’s being transmitted from a well of deep sorrow. At times, it’s hard to listen to, especially on album centrepiece Lost (which begins “Is this what madness feels like?”) but it’s never less than compelling.
♦ Forsyth’s songs are built around acoustic guitar, cello and viola, which provide a suitably doomy soundscape. Sometimes, as on Butterfly, there’s a deep, unsettling hum which grows louder and louder through the song, while on It’s Raining, the strings and guitar provide a comforting blanket against the darkness. Some tracks, such as Black Bull, bring to mind a more fragile version Haley Heynderickx‘s debut album I Need To Start A Garden — the intensity is similar, but more restrained here.
♦ Nobody’s going to find a series of pop bangers on Debris — the aforementioned Lost is simply Forsyth almost in a stream~of~consciousness whisper as the synths threaten to overwhelm her. Her lyrics are sometimes difficult to decipher, but that makes the clearer moments all the more powerful: “If I could touch this sadness, I would change the world,” she muses as the song ends. Look To Yourself has a similar feel — all clanking piano and discordant atmosphere — while the beautiful Large Oak has a lightness of touch to it that almost threatens to float off into thin air.
♦ Anybody looking for a variety of different sounds may come away disappointed as the template of dark, intense folk is stuck to pretty rigidly throughout the record. It’s only on the closing track Start Again that Forsyth completely embraces an electronica sound which hints at an intriguingly different direction — the synths and restless beats hint almost feel like a cathartic release after the near claustrophobic atmosphere of the previous seven tracks.
♦ At only eight tracks long, Debris never overstays its welcome — in fact, you immediately want to go back and experience it again, which is a pretty impressive feat for a record so steeped in melancholy and fragility. It may be only January, but Debris gives the overwhelming impression that one of the defining releases of 2020 may already be upon us.