A sincere, intense lamentation on the experience of loss and growth
Kwesi Foraes’s compact debut is somewhat difficult to sum up concisely. Though 27 is something of an expression of grief, the myriad ways in which Foraes licks his wounds on the record suggest that grief was not the only tonic added to the brew. On 27, we are privy to regret, respect, toil and triumph relayed through a precocious traditionalist’s passionate rhetoric.
The most striking and powerful tool in Foraes’s arsenal is most evidently his voice. It pierces, gravelly and earnest, and trembles at times with as much vulnerable authority as you can get without being screamed at post breakup. Foraes has been beaten, brutally, by forces beyond his control, yet delivers his reflection as if it were entirely his fault.
Opening track Devil’s Child sees Foraes pleading for absolution, claiming to have “ghosts in his pocket.” A maelstrom of tragedy preceded 27; the deaths of several close family members in a single year caused a battle with a deep depression that became the dark matter fuelling the record. Foraes’s intense cries for baptism and cleansing seem hopeful, as the warm stroke of bass and arpeggiating acoustic guitar carry him through.
It becomes apparent across the following tracks, Heroin and Pentacle 13, that Foreas employs a traditionalist approach to genre and song craft. This works in his favour; his raw, honest writing heightens the intensity of his expression, and we are left with a sharp gem of a rock record.
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The simple, swaggering A minor to D major chord hook of Heroin grabs your collar, pulls you close and whispers for a moment of your time; at first threatening, until a familiar voice and texture asks you to listen to the unfolding story ahead. Foraes, with Heroin, quickly exemplifies one of his greatest strengths; to explore a tasteful sense of melody through traditional rock composition, from behind a pained, bitter bark of a vocal.
The folky shuffle of Pentacle 13 explores the pain of vindictive thinking as soaring strings conjure images of a now desolate battlefield; Foraes reveals a new tenderness in his delivery as he laments the aftermath of a love stolen and destroyed. This tenderness continues and builds into the now familiar Foraes growl on Spell, a track that sees Foraes searching for the pedestal on which he has placed a lost love, perhaps the one recounted on Pentacle 13. As the stomping rhythm of Spell builds and Foraes proclaims “I’m gonna find you/if it’s the last thing I do,” it’s difficult to disprove him in the face of such conviction.
The record is bookended by Water, a track wherein Foraes reflects upon his growth and longs for a simpler time as a longing, reverb laden melody asks to return to comfort and innocence; Foraes pleads “I wanna go, where nobody knows/feel as free as the birds and the bees.”
As sincere a plea as any made on 27, sure, however perhaps revealing of a single chink in Foraes’s armour in the form of overtly literal, simplistic lyricism. That said, such sincere music has no need for opacity, and evidently, 27 is a highly promising debut due to its earnest nature. Foraes is a man who looks solely inside himself for inspiration; it is this and the vocalisation of the fact that makes 27 feel fresh and raw. Grief has never felt quite so comforting.
This Kwesi Foraes article was written by Lawottim Anywar, a GIGsoup contributor