The Forms

The Forms

 Borough of Queens, New York, USA
BandAlternativeRock

NYC dream punk duo follow up three highly acclaimed releases (Icarus, The Forms, Derealization), each receiving praise from the likes of Pitchfork/Spin/Stereogum, with "Native Land" to be released Oct 2018.

Biography

Every so often, an album comes along that seems to operate entirely within its own orbit; to obey its own peculiar, inscrutable logic.

Native Land, the first full-length outing in a full decade from the musically meticulous Queens-based duo The Forms, is just such an enigma.  It is – to put it simply and not quite squarely – an album of electronic dance-pop as envisioned by a couple of reformed auteurist math-rockers.  It’s leftfield pop with left-brain chops. A pleasantly disorienting experience, rendered with crisp, hyperrealistic precision.

Which is not to say that Native Land is a record entirely free of sonic context.  Indeed, its 11 tracks are audibly steeped in the sounds that have emanated from the band’s neighboring Brooklyn (and throughout the indie-verse) over the past decade and a half: the trebly, ersatz-tropical percolations of Tanlines and Yeasayer; the densely polychromatic vocal- and electronic-overload (and general outré loopiness) of Animal Collective, Gang Gang Dance and Dan Deacon.  But it approaches these well-trodden reference points from fresh, unfamiliar angles; effectively rebooting and rebuilding 21st century art-pop from the ground up. It’s as if the duo picked up a slightly dusty, late-00s-vintage indietronica toolkit off of Craigslist and, upon discovering it was missing the instruction manual, decided to write their own.

The resulting music could perhaps be pithily described – to borrow the title of one typically off-kilter cut – as “metadance.”  These are fizzy, hands-in-the-air anthems assembled with wonkish exactitude. This is unflinching musical experimentalism stretched to the brink of pop immediacy – or is it vice versa?

Well, it’s tough to say, although the specifics of Native Land’s lengthy and rather curious gestation – which point toward some explanations for the album’s striking singularity – would argue for the former.  

A bit of history might be in order.  Native New Yorkers Alex Tween and Matt Walsh, who’ve made music together since high school, skyrocketed to the apex of mid-00s indie cool when their epigrammatic Steve Albini-recorded debut offering, Icarus, received rapturous plaudits from Pitchfork, and the rest of the fledgling indie-rock internet, for its obstreperously arty, mathematical post-rock.  An eponymous full(er)-length follow-up tempered the group’s knotty, technical compositions and instrumentalism with increasing warmth and melodicism. But it was 2011’s Derealization EP – a “reimagining” of the band’s earlier material that featured guest vocals from some of their musical heroes: Shudder To Think’s Craig Wedren, The National’s Matt Berninger and Andrew Thiboldeaux of Philly art-rockers Pattern is Movement – that pointed the dynamic (if highly roundabout) way ahead.

While vocalist/guitarist/pianist Alex Tween, the more “physical instrument-oriented“ half of the duo, was busy wrangling Derealization into its finished form, Walsh (who’s also responsible for the idiosyncratic side-project/alter-ego Desert Fathers) occupied himself with creating what would become the seed material for the group’s next endeavor.  Drawing inspiration from Olaf Stapledon’s 1937 sci-fi novel Star Maker, in which an omnipotent, dispassionate but diligent creator figure makes a series of trial worlds in a quest to create the “perfect universe,” Walsh set out to create music that evoked “pure, colorless energy.”  This project yielded dozens of brief synth-based fragments, some just seconds long, which Tween later assembled into more song-like structures, sometimes re-recording the fragments or supplementing the synthesizers with more organic sounds including steel pans, hammond organ, tack piano and, on the album’s airy, mesmeric finale “All Souls Day,” a custom-built set of bass steel pans.  Only after these often convoluted musical structures were in place did Tween begin the painstaking process of carefully tailoring melodies to fit them, as though injecting color and humanity into Walsh’s inert musical worldlings.

It’s an odd way to make a pop record, for sure, and an ambitious one at that – and the results are varied as they are distinctive: from the euphoric smash-hit electro-dance of “Southern Ocean” and the pounding piano pop of “Longways” to the stuttering, circular rhythms of “Backstep” and the surging, drifting bewilderment of “Finds Its Own.”

Then again, for this band, ambition and oddness are more or less a mother tongue. Though it seems light years away from their early work, making this album was a sort of homecoming for The Forms, a return to a natural state that they’d perhaps never attained before: working purely as a duo; recording at leisure in their home-based studios – at first in Ridgewood and then relocating to Rockaway Beach, less than a mile from where Walsh was born.  This is their comfort zone. This is their Native Land.

Discography

The Forms - Derealization
The Forms - The Forms
The Forms - Icarus

Set List

1. Knowledge in Hand 2. Red Gun 3. Focus 4. Bones 5. Stravinsky 6. White Dot 7. Alpha 8. Getting It Back Set is typically 30 minutes.