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Forma - Physicalist album review

Studious Brooklyn synthesists Forma flesh out their sound.

Forma - Physicalist album art

Opening as a synth-led electronica album, Forma’s third – a double – switches gears midway to become a sorrowful, ambient arc involving acoustic experimentation. It makes for a beguiling journey where the scenery shifts from European emphases to Anglo-US angles, with a subtle hint of suspense. Ultimately it finds a melancholy midpoint between the rhythmic burbles of Jean-Michel Jarre and the chillier minimalism of Harold Budd or Terry Riley.

The Brooklyn trio, featuring new member John Also Bennett, commit themselves to a reverie of two halves. The first builds on their previous techno-soundscape approach: repetitive mantras bordering on Cluster or Tangerine Dream, more kosmische than Krautrock. The second spins off into sad, echoing, piano-prompted droplets, but the 11-minute title track finds a rewarding resolution between the two contrasting pulls.

That title references physicalism, the philosophy that the physical creates all phenomena, yet this is a highly cerebral, ideas-driven sound, suggesting the deployment of algorithms and grids. Which thankfully isn’t to say it’s soulless, its first phase nagging with an insistent warmth almost despite itself, its second evoking a lagoon of loneliness.

Chris Roberts has written about music, films, and art for innumerable outlets. His new book The Velvet Underground is out April 4. He has also published books on Lou Reed, Elton John, the Gothic arts, Talk Talk, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Abba, Tom Jones and others. Among his interviewees over the years have been David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Al Green, Tom Waits & Lou Reed. Born in North Wales, he lives in London.