Trevor Oswalt (a.k.a. East Forest) is a unique bird in the Wild West aviary of electronic music. While his shamanic ambient electropop can be contextualized along with Aphex Twin, Philip Glass and Sigur Ros, the fundamental mission of his project is to create sonic architecture for others to explore their own inner space. Thus, it is a process of opening doorways for the listener to walk through, which takes patience. Patience, while typically thought of as kryptonite in the instant gratification, hyper-speed world of music, might just be the medicine we need.
Nature indelibly made a huge impression on Oswalt, who grew up in the Pacific Northwest. He spent a decade in NYC, where he discovered indigenous traditions and began cultivating source recordings from sound healings and mushroom ceremonies. Eventually he started leading underground ceremonies across the country. Playing in the private shadows allowed the patient sound of East Forest to emerge: an emotional and spacious lexicon born out of a practical need to play solo for six hours, while guiding a room full of listeners in deep meditation.
Word organically spread as a devoted community shared his early albums, leading to glowing nods of approval from the likes of NPR and Wired. He completed multiple tours across the U.S. and Europe and shared his mission on the stage of TEDx while performing in a diverse range of settings, from SXSW to Grace Cathedral, as well as private parties for the likes of Google. As his diverse catalogue emerged (14 releases total), the music evolved from extended, ambient jams to more concise, structured material with vocals - a vivid mix of the digital and analog realms with a social and spiritual underpinning. “I’ve always been inspired by the natural world and the psychedelic experience” Oswalt asserts, cementing his position on plant medicine, which he has often implemented in his recording process. “I prefer to operate where my intuitive musical mind can speak and something larger can come through”
His newest release, a deluxe version of his 2017 album CAIRN, drops January 26th, 2018 –rounded out by several unreleased B-Sides and remixes. The original sessions took place in the high desert of Utah at Oswalt’s Boulder Rock Studios with the assistance of electronic producer Keith Sweaty. It was a highly collaborative project that also featured trumpet by Brad Lee of The Album Leaf and rhymes by Scarub of Living Legends, along with strings by the ‘Bizarre Strings’ trio (Band of Horses, My Morning Jacket, Joanna Newsom). The bulk of the material explored the collapse of a long-term relationship and the fundamental changes that result, both in the personal sense, as well as in a global level.
A cairn is traditionally a stack of stones that marks a trail in the wilderness. Come across a marker and you know you’ve reached a point in the trail. Trails in turn lead somewhere: the destination we hope to reach. Reflecting on the album title, Oswalt notes “The past year I was going through a divorce and immense changes which caused me to riff on this idea - where do I go from here? I was looking for signs to show me the next step and was also interested in leaving a marker for others, if I found my way.”