Forma - Physicalist album review

Studious Brooklyn synthesists Forma flesh out their sound.

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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.