Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Forms - The Forms

The Forms
The Forms (Rebel Group, 2007)
Grade: B+

Download: The Forms - "Bones"
Download: The Forms - "Knowledge In Hand"
Download: The Forms - "Blue Whale"

Patience is a virtue, or so the axiom goes. In music, subtlety is putting that axiom into practice. There are times, though, where subtlety takes the musical express into boredomtown. That is, what's trying to be intricate and complex really ends up being dry and dull. The tricky part is figuring out when a band is succeeding or failing with regard to that task.

To the indie ear, The Forms may sound like DC greats The Dismemberment Plan putting on a cardigan sweater and deciding to make music with a kinder, gentler machine gun hand. Though The Forms have a lot in common with the D-Plan--mainly, Alex Tween's vocal similarities to Travis Morrison-- multiple listens show The Forms steadily reveal a swirling guitar style akin to shoegazer bands like My Bloody Valentine (implicitly throughout the album, and explicitly on tracks like "Blue Whale.") It's a subtle addition, but a crucial one. It's a step that elevates the New York band's self-titled album from interesting failure to a consistently enjoyable and well-crafted piece of mellow post-punk.

The album starts off with what is its most straightforward track, at least in terms of musical dynamics. "Knowledge In Hand" has almost Nirvana-like dynamics--it starts off all quiet and introspective-like before the chorus (which really is just the verse, but louder) kicks up it something fierce. But the track goes just as quickly as it arrives, what with being a brisk 2:35 and everything. The next few tracks follow a similar pattern. They are all very brief songs that nonetheless contain great ideas, whether it's the shimmering harmonics of "Alpha" or the 5/4 rumble of "Focus". The problem with that approach though is that none of the songs really sink in on the first listen; they all feel too slight (especially the barely-minute long segue tracks, which literally sound like waste of sonic space at first).

However, if one has the patience and the willingness to see The Forms as one giant song--not a concept album, per se, but more like one track with 12 parts--they'll be rewarded with moments of hushed beauty, like in the closing moments of "Bones" and the jangly, Shellac-like push-pull of "Transmission". Patience may be in slight supply in today's ADD-like consumption of media. But the ethereal soundscapes of "White Dot" prove that there's something to be said about willing to wander around with a band who is more than happy to lead you someplace interesting, even if you don't get to the destination in a timely manner.

Or, as someone much wiser than I am once put it, "not all who wander are lost." The Forms, both the band and the album, prove that they well-versed in the musical equivalent of that quote.

The Forms open up for Immaculate Machine at the 7th Street Entry on tonight. Doors are at 8 and tickets cost seven dollars. Buy them here.

MySpace Page

(Jonathan Graef)

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