Keeley Forsyth’s brilliant sophomore album, Limbs, is a dark and brooding affair. It feels as though it has been unearthed after spending centuries underground, before being stripped of everything extraneous and presented before us.
Writing about a Keeley Forsyth album for the Musical Advent feels a little like déjà vu. After all, it’s only twenty-four months since I wrote about her debut, Debris, for 2020’s edition. How do the two compare? One thing they share is that they are both incredibly short albums, clocking in at roughly twenty-six minutes. Very snackable, then. However, in one marked departure from her debut, Limbs is far from a light-bite. Not that Debris was like k-pop or anything, but Limbs takes the level of intensity even further. In an interview with John Robb, she described it as “closed-in and muffled”. Listen carefully and you will hear precisely what she means. This is an intimate, claustrophobic collection, one in which it feels like Forsyth is sitting on your shoulder singing those words into your ear. There are moments where you can hear her breathe.
Speaking of the singing, just as it was on Debris, Forsyth’s stunning vocal is the highlight. She possesses the most haunting voice with an effortless range. For the most part, it is controlled and restrained. Forsyth reins it in. However, there are exceptions. On Bring Me Water, her vocal soars majestically, a feat repeated on the album’s atmospheric closer, I Stand Alone. Breathtaking as it is, it’s not just about Forsyth’s voice. The accompanying music on Limbs is also outstanding; with Forsyth’s musical collaborator, Ross Downes, helping to create an engrossing minimalist ambience throughout.
Limbs’ highlight is a tune I compared to Tilt-era Scott Walker in my Louder Than War review. Wash is somehow different from the other tracks on this collection; more mechanical, more industrial. Evelyn Glennie’s percussion provides a foreboding background to impassioned strings and elegiac organ. Above it all, Forsyth’s voice is acrobatic and imploring; but never overcooked. Limbs is an outstanding album, the second from this remarkable artist in as many years. There haven’t been many better in this exceptional year.