enchanted forest explores new sonic territories on ‘Semele’s Tryst’

Electronic sounds constructed, melted and bent to their will meet a free-jazz fusion on the Philly-based duo's latest album.
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A singer-songwriter from Boston, MA that also writes blogs about music from time to time. A loud and proud as fuck member of the Alt-Black, LGBT and autistic community.

enchanted forest, a Philly-based duo made up of members Em Boltz and Noah Jacobson-Carroll, is a band that often operates similar to a bowl of fish: left to their own devices as creators and unconcerned of any trends. In 2021, the two released Research, an album filled with electronic sounds constructed, melted, and bent to their will with no real clue over what exactly all of it is supposed to mean. However, they are willing to expose their reference points. On the Bandcamp page for the 2020 EP, Jacob’s Ladder, they referenced artists such as new age/ambient composer Laraaji and industrial Throbbing Gristle offshoot Psychic TV. After listening through their grab bag of a discography, you will completely understand these references. Now, Semele’s Tryst, their third full-length, expands on those while throwing in some elements of jazz.

For those unaware of the ancient Greek tale of Semele, it is the story of Semele’s affair and seduction of Zeus, a man already married to Hera. But, enchanted forest leaves the connection between the story and their music to the listeners. After all, Semele—the name itself—is also the Neoplatonic meaning of “intellectual imagination.”

Semele’s Tryst taps into elements of free jazz but leans more towards jazz fusion—a genre that’s less reliant on feeling and intuition and more reliant on music being approached academically. With this in mind, it is best to take the album’s music as something cerebral.  “Peony” is gleefully abstract in its build, “Star nose” blends frantic synth bass with starry bell pads, reminiscing techno from the late 90s, and “Thrills & tributaries” is almost tailor-made for a popular video game made to soundtrack the cyberpunk era of the 80s. Imagine what would happen if Autechre, Actress, and Ken Ishii members got together and started a jazz project.

A common Hallmark of an enchanted forest album is that it is largely constructed using bite-sized recordings of musical ideas and mangled field recordings. Little seeds of sound add up to about as much as you get out of them. Only six songs on Semele’s Tryst go past the two-minute mark. “Day song” manages to pack an impressive amount of inertia within that time. Between fast-paced percussion and heady melodies, the track sounds nearly complete until it’s cut off at the stuttery bridge. “Invisium,” the second longest track on the album at exactly four minutes, sounds as if Squarepusher blended his more heady electronic exercises with his brother Ceephax’s acid squelches.

As for the morsel tracks, “Burger in heavenly fries” is the most meditative and bright. Imagine what happens if you took an Alice Coltrane song, smashed it into little pieces, and then tried to put it back together again. “Tumble” is the album’s most spacious with synth brass soaring over the distant yet impactful rumbling of synth bass. At 1¾th time, the track feels the most complete and time-bending.

While Research may be an exploration of new intergalactic sounds, Semele’s Tryst takes those little bits and turns them into something that feels more than the sum of its parts. Regardless of how small or large the tracks are, they’ll never feel like tossed-off ideas. All to say, Semele’s Tryst goes beyond mere audio curiosity and travels straight into wanderlust territory. The exploration of such wanderlust will demand dedicated listening.

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