Castle If is the moniker of electronic composer Jess Forrest. Equipped with a small, yet powerful assembly of analog synthesizers, she crafts retro-futuristic “cosmic exotica” inspired by the strange sounds of the synth pioneers that forged electronica. The eerie yet comfortingly familiar echoes of lounge and library music shaped into a dream of the future.
Forrest has appeared on bills alongside artists such as Silver Apples, U.S. Girls, Grimes, Steve Hauschildt, and Julianna Barwick. She currently resides in Toronto, Canada, where she cares for an extensive collection of houseplants. — She released an instrumental 30-minute cassette tape entitled "Plant Material" on April 7th, and has a full length sci-fi concept album due to follow sometime in 2018.
"Sector 03 has officially become the most anticipated album here at our office.".
- Alt Altman, SILENT SHOUT.
"Castle If channels a lesser known spirit of New Age. It touches the part of the brain that makes you move like your soul is on fire. One of Toronto’s most captivating performers."
"Part philosophical drug trip, part performance art, Castle If puts on a show that makes you ask the all-too-familiar question, “What the hell did I just see?” As strange as this all may sound, Castle If pulls the weirdness off through the music. Impossible to not be awed by."
- Emily Scherzinger, DEMO MAGAZINE.
"Jess Forrest’s synth project Castle If is hypnotic. She lures listeners into a trance with her small cavalcade of electronics, then suddenly makes them question everything."
- Michael Thomas, GRAY OWL POINT.
PRESS FOR THE SECTOR 03 PREVIEW VIDEOS - DIR. LISA FOLKERSON, 2015:
This is one of two videos made for the Mendel Art Gallery by Lisa Folkerson. It is a great example of why Castle If is one of Toronto’s most captivating performers. Channeling the sensual warmth of Berlin School electronics and robot-pop vocals she bops and sways to her alluring arpeggios while lush vegetation, cascading waters falls are blanketed around her. Though the music moves at a clicking beetle’s pace, Castle If channels a lesser known spirit of New Age. It touches the part of the brain that makes you move like your soul is on fire.
- James Lindsay, WEIRD CANADA.
Jess Forrest’s synth project Castle If is hypnotic. She lures listeners into a trance with her small cavalcade of electronics, then suddenly makes them question everything. The latest from the icy Castle is this two-part video series shot at the Mendel Art Gallery, and directed by Lisa Folkerson. “Sector 03” is a sprawling song but doesn’t feel like it goes on forever despite the runtime. Forrest slowly adds bits in—a metronome-style backing beat, the odd flourish of synth, both modded and unmodded vocals—and watching it all come together on video is fascinating. Despite the calm tempo, Forrest is always moving, and the video gets downright weird when her face suddenly appears on screen.
The video for “The Surge” gets a bit more unhinged, breaking up the performance bits with more natural scenery and a lot more of Forrest on her own, singing the words. The song itself is a little more upbeat, and the video capitalizes on the faster tempo to create something truly disorienting. These two songs are a sneak peek at Castle If’s upcoming Sector 03 sci-fi concept album, and it’s a very promising start.
- Michael Thomas, GRAY OWL POINT.
We have been waiting with bated breath for some new Castle If since pretty much forever. Her collaborations with Cell Memory are what put her on our radar, and her debut krautrock EP from 2012 made us stick around. The long-form electro-prog seems rooted in many of the same influences as Silent Shout favourite Femminielli, and the talent is just as evident, but with the exception of many phenomenal live performances, we hadn’t heard a true statement from the project. Finally, we have two new songs that are worthy of the building anticipation that exceed all previous expectations.
Castle If was commissioned to make a performance video by The Mendel in Saskatoon for the art gallery’s 50th anniversary. Taking a few liberties, she collaborated with video artist Lisa Folkerson (who directed Ken Park’s phenomenal “He Says I’m an Island” video last year), and produced what she refers to as “more of a cable-access-style television performance than a music video.”
“Sector 03″—the title track of a forth-coming sci-fi concept record— features a snarling monster of a bass-line that creates the backdrop for vocoded tales of woe and sadness. Meanwhile, “The Surge” goes in different direction: a perfectly contained nugget of a pop-song that wouldn’t sound out of place on an alternate universe Ladytron record. Behind it all are Folkerson’s projections, which create the perfect space for Castle If to do her thing, and allows the immaculately produced songs to speak for themselves.
Sector 03 has officially become the most anticipated album here at our office, and while we know that good things come to those that wait, we need to hear this ASAP.
- Alt Altman, SILENT SHOUT.
Saskatoon-to-Toronto transplant Jess Forrest produced these two videos under her Castle If moniker with visual artist Lisa Folkerson for the Mendel Art Gallery's annual LUGO celebration. "I wasn't able to fly out to Saskatchewan this winter, so I told them I wouldn't be able to perform live, but joked that I could perform via video, and surprisingly, they said 'yes'!" Forrest tells us via email.
The clips have a distinctly cable access aesthetic, a sort of hybrid performance video/green-screen video art installation, which is exactly what the pair were going for, Forrest says. "The songs are two of my personal favourites from an unfinished Sci-Fi concept album I've been working on over the past year. The first track, 'Sector 03,' sets the tone for the record, like a type of overture. The second track, 'The Surge,' is a pop song I wrote in the style of John Carpenter."
- Chris Hampton, CHART ATTACK.
PRESS FOR CELL MEMORY & CASTLE IF'S ZWEI HANDE, 2012:
(Cell Memory &) Castle If sculpts some beautiful Kraftwerk-esque songs with some other strange tidbits thrown in. On “Neuwellen” from their 2012 release “Zwei Hände (Part 1)” the mandatory kraut-rock ostinato is firmly in place, but as it spins out there are some vocals and wandering synths lines introduced. Psychedelic analog synth kraut rock with, sure, a slight tinge of new wave as the title suggests. It’s new wave through the lens of experimental krautrock.
- Adam Shanley, QUARTERTONALITY.
Set adrift on modular bliss. Zwei Hände is the inaugural team up of these Toronto cosmonauts, drifting from oscillator throb into ambient blast-off, Milky Way swirls, and vocoder exotica. Shelve next to Fripp and Eno's (No Pussyfooting), or for a more recent reference, the incredible collabo of Das Amore and JLK from Montreal's Los Disco Enfantasmes. If anything can bridge the Big Smoke and la belle province, it's gotta be a love of gettin' gone on the interstellar Autobahn.