Album Reviews

Keeley Forsyth – The Hollow

(FatCat) UK release date: 10 May 2024

While it’s far from cosy easy listening, as an entry point into the bewitching, disquieting world of its maker, this album is pretty special

Keeley Forsyth - The Hollow It’s fair to say that Keeley Forsyth‘s third album won’t be for everyone. Even by her own avant-garde standards, The Hollow is a tricky listener for the casual observer. It’s unsettling, eerie and, a lot of the time, impossibly abstract. For those who do tune into Forsyth’s unique sound though – you’re in for quite the treat.

The subject of the album is unusual enough. It was inspired by a journey that Forsyth took across the Yorkshire Moors, when she discovered an abandoned mine shaft which had been forced into a hillside. The recent loss of Forsyth’s grandmother, who had raised her since she was a small child, also fed into the making of the record.

The results are pretty astonishing. There’s a funeral, downbeat atmosphere to most of the album – opening track Answer even sounds like a medieval funeral chant: just swirling synths and Forsyth’s unique voice vocalising wordlessly. You can almost imagine yourself disappearing into a sea of mist up on the Moors as you listen.

There’s a hypnotic rhythm to many of the tracks on The Hollow. Turning is mesmerising, seeing Forsyth vocalising with Colin Stetson‘s saxophone – the staccato beat slowly taking the song over. Sometimes, it’s the stillness that holds court: the stately synths of Slush providing a backdrop to Forsyth’s voice.

While Forsyth’s music is unique, her voice can remind you of all sorts of artists – there’s the mystical power of Scott Walker for one, or the frail trill of Nico at times, but it’s Anonhi who’s most often brought to mind, especially on the otherworldly, unsettling In The Corner. “You were always somewhere else” Forsyth sings on In The Corner, and you can almost feel the emotion dripping from her voice.

There are no obvious ‘singles’ on The Hollow – Forsyth is very much an act who is unbothered by chart placing – but Horse is possibly the most conventional track on the album. It’s built on a stirring organ melody, and then there’s brass and some interwoven vocals thrown in. Closing track Creature is introduced by a lovely piano melody, which ends on the album on such a beautiful final note you could well just spend minutes staring into space as it washes over you.

If there’s a criticism, it’s that some of these tracks feel slightly half-formed, sketches rather than fully-formed songs. You start to wonder what Forsyth could do with a good six-minute running time to really explore her sound. On the other hand, it means that none of these songs ever outstay their welcome.

It’s very far from cosy easy listening, and it’s certainly a record you have to be in the right mood to fully appreciate. Yet as an entry point into the bewitching, disquieting world of Keeley Forsyth, The Hollow is pretty special.

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More on Keeley Forsyth
Keeley Forsyth – The Hollow
Keeley Forsyth – Limbs
Keeley Forsyth – Debris