On their debut Kranky outing, the upcoming 2xLP Physicalist (with breathtaking Robert Beatty art), Forma have carved out a new niche for themselves, forgoing their full-frontal synthesis attack to make way for acoustic sounds. For those familiar with the project, there are still plenty of pristine synth sounds, albeit one with a more kosmische bent than the band’s earlier techno-leaning outing on The Bunker New York. Physicalist is also notable for being the group’s first go-round with John Also Bennett, new member and multi-instrumentalist. For sufficient background, the album name comes from the idea of physicalism or “the philosophical belief that all phenomena in the universe are created entirely from physical interactions,” which, to make the appropriate jump, implies a structure in which Forma improvises—like variations on a theme, permutations, and fractals. The impossibly small is just as infinite as the sublimely huge. Physicalist is out September 23 on Kranky.
AdHoc: What prompted the inclusion of acoustic instruments on the new Forma 2xLP?
George Bennett: The instrumentation change I made on Physicalist was less about moving from electronic to acoustic and more about a distinction between automation and hand-playing. In our earliest days, FORMA did lots of manual work. Mark was hand-playing arpeggiated sequences and I was playing a drum kit, so in a sense we’re coming full circle. If there was any conscious shift for me on Physicalist, it was a return to hand-playing, where I have more opportunities for spontaneity and can get off the grid with my rhythms. Some of that was done on acoustic cymbals, and some of it on electronic sample pads.
John Also Bennett: We’d been tossing around the idea of including some acoustic instrumentation, or even just more hand-played instruments for a while, though we hadn’t much tried it out until we got to the studio. I was trained classically on flute and piano (and saxophone!), before trading in my flute for a guitar as a teenager, and then later trading my guitars and amps for synthesizers. So this is really just coming back to my roots after a long journey. I brought my flute to the studio, where there was also a great Steinway grand piano, and George brought a cymbal and some percussion instruments. After almost two days of tracking synthesizers, we took some time to work out on the piano, Mark and I trading off, and me on flute. It’s a way for us to free ourselves from the sometimes musically constraining idea that electronic music needs to be danceable.