Leafcutter John (aka John Burton) has been slowly migrating his sound now with every single album that he has released. After starting out with some somewhat crunchy electronic work that found a familiar home on the Planet Mu label, he threw a lot of listeners for a loop with his more introspective The Housebound Spirit release. The Forest And The Sea continues the logical progression for Burton and finds him pushing into an even more folktronica (for lack of better term) realm while also marking his debut for the Staubgold label.
The nine track, forty-five minute album plays out like a story as it progresses through equal parts played instruments, electronic wanderings, and vocals. Opening track "Let It Begin" sets the stage and is easily one of the best tracks on the album as Burton shows off his plaintive vocals as the song veers between almost folky acoustic instrumentation and deconstructed digital flutters. "Maria In The Forest" follows and after a field recording / accordion introduction, the song morphs into sort of a slow back porch instrumental jam before again dropping off into electronic stew.
Unfortunately, the album gets a bit off track in the middle, and despite some solid moments (the excellent "Dream I" and "Dream III"), the album just completely dissolves into wankey electronics during quite a few moments, dashing the momentum of the release with harsher bursts of noisy electronics. True, part of the joy is in the journey itself, and Burton obviously has the talent to go from dissonant meanderings into absolutely gorgeous passages (the nearly seven minute "In The Morning"), but several of these excursions simply feel out of place on an album where the best work is nearly on a par (and is stylistically similar) with the electronics-enhanced pastoral musings of Adem. Outstanding in places, frustrating in others, The Forest And The Sea is another interesting release from the mind of a young artist who refuses to play things safe.