Review Summary: A shoegaze album that differentiates itself from the pack, albeit very subtly.
As you may expect by its title, Nocturne is a musical composition that is usually inspired by, or evocative of, the night. First applied to pieces in the 18th century, when it indicated an ensemble piece of music across several different movements, normally played for evening parties and then laid aside. At this time, the piece was not necessarily evocative of the night, but merely be intended for performance at night, much like a serenade. Fast forward a couple of centuries- plus change- and Italy’s shoegazey post-punk trio Be Forest take influence from this ancient evocative practice on their third album, “Knocturne”
Although the night might suggest a sense of danger and eeriness, “Knocturne”
, contrastingly showcases the lighter side of the night despite it still sound like an obviously dark piece. In place of fear, fatigue and obscurity, a time for quiet tranquillity, mindful reflection and welcome solitude is presented in each song of the album. The tone of the guitars is drenched in gothic nostalgia, where each twinkling note sounds crisp and hazy simultaneously. Jittering drum pats often compliment the overriding guitars in tracks such as “Gemini” and “K” which makes these moody evening compilations sound more alive and active. Smothering reverb in songs such as “Sigfrido” creates depth that allows you to immerse yourself in comfortably, whereas, in “Bengala”, the reverb strengthens the instrumentation, makes it seem as if it has a shadow trailing in its wake. Rest assured, the greatest achievement of “Knocturne”
is that it genuinely sounds like an evening soundtrack.
That being said, there are moments of light in this album. Naturally, there cannot be only dark and only light, and this album illustrates their coexistence chiefly via Costanza Delle Rose’s dreamy vocals. Admittedly, like the instrumentation, they barely vary in the album’s short duration. However, she has excellent control over her vocal performance which behaves similarly to a dimmer switch. In tracks where her lyrics are distinguishable and her voice is clearer, they don’t immediately blind and fill the space with light, instead, they gradually permeate the sombre soundscape, swelling in size and casing even more brightness as they become more pronounced and comprehensible. “Empty Space” and “Fragment” highlights this perfectly. In the former, her vocals, barely more than a whisper, evoke night-time loneliness and materialise gently with help from the starry guitars and rumbling bass. Meanwhile, the latter has a reverse effect. Her vocals rise to stand confidently above the chiming melodies but then they begin to mingle with the electronics making it sound like she’s sighing into a delicate midnight breeze.
Be Forest also displays a knack for creating a cinematic atmosphere in their music. If you could snap a picture of the imagery this album evokes, after shaking he polaroid you might see a silhouetted figure standing underneath a lit lamppost on an otherwise deserted street at midnight, others might visualise looking out a window as it is raining at night and seeing the sporadic movements of raindrops trickle down the glass like tears. Even the brilliant album art itself offers another suggestive visualisation. On the surface, Be Forest is simply another shoegaze band only with more comprehensible vocals, however, the difference between them and their counterparts is how they are able to express so much while presenting so little. “Knocturne”
is not a dense album, it’s one of clarity. Thus, Be Forest challenges a listener to find the sense of introspection that all shoegaze artists manifest themselves rather than simply have it handed to them on a densely constructed, heavily textured sonic platter.