REVIEW: “Black Pine” (Single) by Forest Ray

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Listening to any Forest Ray single is like returning to a favorite summer vacation spot. The air is always fresher, the colors more vibrant and a veil of laissez-fair overcomes you. Life couldn’t be better. Even when the song has a tint of sad reflection, as is the case with their new track, “Black Pine”. Forest Ray, a Seattle-based band, carries the listener into a remarkable bliss with its contained energy and visual guide to match in the companion video. Adding in lead singer Peter Sumic’s modest vocals, and “Black Pine” makes for a grander, lush musical landscape.

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Were you there, when I looked up at the stars?….well I hope that’s where you are…Sumic sings. His voice hovers over a shiny, amber-dipped guitar. It sounds far off, like his thoughts are miles away in the distance. His guitar changes near the song’s end — squelching and hitting the notes for as long as it can. Reaching. Reaching. Grasping for something to touch, the guitar waves creep upwards. Just when you’re emotions are meandering a different path, Sumic’s guitar clasps for one final moment.

In previous outings, Sumic’s vocals have been bolstered by a melodic, female voice. “Black Pine” is the title track to the band’s latest album and they recorded it at The Croatian American Church in Anacortes, Wash. As always, the process involved live to tape, or analog. Forest Ray has been recording their work the same way since 2016. Sumic’s family is Croatian and the native trees to the Dalmatia region are called “Cnorbor”, or “black pine”. Sumic’s exploration of emotional turmoil, joy and sentimentality in the song are rooted in his last trip to the region — he had to bury his grandfather. The shared experience, oddly exuberant, plays out like the same depth of John Frusciante’s guitar in the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s classic “Otherside”. I also sensed a shade of The Edge’s guitar work in “New Year’s Day”. The fullness of the song expands with the steady percussion and the drizzled bass lines, reminiscent of 60s rock and psychedelia. Forest Ray, as a band, has an unbridled garage rock shell that is hard to crack, but once you’re inside, there’s no telling where they will take your imagination.

The visual representation of “Black Pine” checks several boxes. A mixture of live action and animation, Forest Ray’s signature look of capturing a Kodachrome tone, and vintage milieu. The trees, lots of tall, deep-evergreen trees scatter the scenery, as Sumic drives along this existential road trip. Sumic’s emotional journey, on the screen, is engaging. You’re in the driver seat with him. Peppered in the final scenes, against Sumic’s exceptional guitar, is the picturesque Croatian coastline. Conor O’Keefe directed, shot and edited the “Black Pine” music video.

Joining Sumic in the band are Eric Junge, Sebastian Brown Glad , Brennan Moring, Brendan McGovern and Simon Olander. “Black Pine” is the third single from the album with the same name, following “Honesty” and “Shadows”. Previous releases are Musical Witchcraft (2016), Laughing (2018) and Faded Reflection (2019).

Colin Jordan

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Graduate: McNeese State University, Avid Beekeeper, Deep Sea Diver & Fisherman, Horrible Golfer

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