Brooklyn’s Forma follow their cosmic comedown album Physicalist from 2016 with the propulsive, glistening sounds of Semblance. On the last go ‘round the band split their impulses between sides. The opening half of the album embracing the skitter and propulsion of Krautrock given electronic tendrils. The back half, on the other hand, took a suite of songs down a much more Kosmiche road, spreading its attention between synth float, drone and free jazz. This time they’re not keeping the halves of their personality at arm’s length and in turn they create a layered retrofuturist pop album that’s just as likely to dazzle in plastic and glass refractions as it is to siphon the anxiety out of the room via meditative haze.
Its an extension of Physicalist to be honest, but the coherence here makes the last album seem like sketches for the more elaborate arc of Semblance. They weave the weapons of their psychedelic journey in a more articulate fashion this time. Ebbing and flowing in chapters, the album moves from synth scratched with sax through mechanical Zen, into a palpable play on technological anxiety and settles into lucid dreams that are almost too real. By the time the listener is entering “New City,” its hard to know if we can trust our own eyes or ears. The moment is refreshing, but also feels like one might be able to reach out and touch the elastic and static crinkle of VR film holding in this surreal serenity.
Somewhere there’s a film missing a solid score in this, and its definite highlight in the band’s catalog. There’s no lack of synth slingers who are aiming for the raised bar on Kosmiche clatter, but with Semblance Forma have come into their own. Even if you’ve tired of the dystopian drift and cosmic checkboxes that so many in this genre hit regularly, Forma have given these touchstones a new life and a reason to float out into the ether once more.
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