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Travel III
Artist: Future of Forestry
Label: EMI CMG
Time: 6 tracks / 25 mins

What a shame that it has to end. This EP finishes the trilogy that sees life in terms of travel by land, sea and air respectively. Travel II was a highlight of the whole of last year, with a remarkable 5 out of 6 top-rated tracks ­ and the début was pretty smart.

This follow-up may be less compelling at first, but it has listening pleasure in barrow loads. Whereas Travel II’s soaring melodies were tacked down by a constant stream of inventive percussion, here that thread is quite underplayed. On the radio-friendly “Working to be Loved” (where the chorus suggests The Feeling at every play) it’s not just the classic rhythm track of bass, drums and guitar that propels the beat; the whole vocal delivery works with it to make sure that the backbeats have real punch. (Meanwhile, off to the side, drifting clouds of ambient sound opens up its spaces.)

Other influences come in track by track, especially on the choruses. On “Did you Lose Yourself” it’s Switchfoot’s turn to raise their head; the now-traditional climactic final track ­ and its predecessor ­ would not be what they are had Muse not been around; and “Bold and Underlined” has a treated guitar that would see it quite at home on Jars of Clay’s Long Fall Back to Earth .

All this, however, should not detract from Owyoung’s distinctive span of textures. This is real headphones-in-the-evening stuff, with so many extra sounds tucked away that don’t stand out, but build the soundscape: plucked strings, shaken percussion, a vibraphone riff, low keyboard growls and innumerable sonic blips and whizzes.

Lyrically, Owyoung is quite ambiguous. Is “Bold and Underlined” praising God’s generosity as well as urging listeners to make the most of their life? “Working to be Loved” could be a relationship song but also works as a cry of frustration to God about living by rules rather than grace. “Did You Lose Yourself,” which contains references to Owyoung’s oriental roots, is poetic and can mean many things.

But this is not music for writing about, it’s music to be heard, enjoyed and heard again... and again… and again. And at every listen there will be new details to discover and appreciate. Superb.

Derek Walker

Hard and fast by land is the mode travel found within Travel III, the third in a series of three EP offerings by Future of Forestry. The continuation of this set is again adventurous and experimental with one-man band member Eric Owyoung moving on to new musical ground. Like the first two EPs, Travel III is at times spacious and moody, and at others light and airy. The collective sound is new and fresh with an ethereal quality. Owyoung again performs most instruments, provides vocals, production and mixing only to share the artwork with his wife. This is a work of love by a true musical artist. 

Although lyrically expressive, and musically fresh and experimental the collection is very bass heavy and at times difficult to clearly understand the lyrics for both the bass and percussion. The title cut “Bold and Underlined” highlights with heavy guitar and signature percussion. Subdued vocals promote the songs story, ‘I wonder how you live, I wonder how you drive your demons away’. “Working to be Loved” does a 180 with a great acoustic guitar intro and light, lively lyrics contributing to a bouncy romp keeping the song floating along at a good pace. The melancholy “Did You Lose Yourself?” asks ‘Did you lose yourself, did you leave yourself behind, did you lose yourself, did you let your heart rewind’ with mellow synth and electonica laying its foundation. The dramatic “Protection” has great story with vocals unfortunately at times lost in heavy bass. Weighty drums, echoed vocals and low lying guitar plow the road for “Horizon Rainfall”.  Finally, “Your Day’s Not Over” brings a message of hope and love with ‘Come with me, we could be lovers, there’s hope for us all, your day’s not over’. 

The richness of Owyoung’s lyrics and vocals are sometimes lost in heavy bass and synth while the percussion, generally understated guitar, and soft lyrics continue to provide the signature expressive and dream-like qualities that are Future of Forestry. Travel III lacks the punch the first two offerings of the set have with high water marks “Traveler’s Song”, “Hills of Indigo Blue”, and “Holiday” but continues to give fresh, experimental sound. This EP set, like recent sets offered by Sarah Masen and Jon Foreman are must adds for your collection.

By SS Mertens

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