Brooklyn-based math rockers The Forms have released less than two hours worth of music in their decade together, a fact that makes the emergence of any new material seem that much more noteworthy. And, as such, right on schedule, four years after the band’s last, self-titled full-length, the arrival of Derealization comes as a bit unexpected, given the band’s relative quiet in the past few years. However, this 17-minute EP finds the band packing in many more surprises, including guest appearances from The National’s Matt Berninger and Shudder to Think’s Craig Wedren. From the outset, it’s fairly obvious that this is something a bit different from what one might expect in a new Forms release.
Conceived as a ‘remix’ album of sorts, Derealization was born from a happy accident that occurred when the band played one of their albums at 45 RPM instead of 33. This chipmunk-voiced ‘oops’ then inspired the group to take existing songs from their first two albums, rearrange and recontextualize them and make them new again. And, on the whole, it’s a successful experiment. Stylistically, the Forms haven’t radically altered the sounds of their songs; their mathematically complex rhythms remain at the heart of each track, and their dreamy, lush sonics haven’t been abandoned. But in some cases, the pace has been altered, strings or synths have been added, and the arrangements take on fresh new life.
It’s probably no accident that the two most radically altered tracks are those featuring guest vocalists. “Fire In the Ground” is an interesting, if strange, match for Matt Berninger’s voice, with cello and viola spinning a spiral staircase around his baritone. But Craig Wedren becomes an essential part of the title track, his versatile and arty pipes fitting into the dazzling scenery with ease. Derealization is an unusual kind of release, re-hashing the past while turning into something entirely new. And, as usual, The Forms execute it with impressive instrumental flair. That each track seems so detailed and precise probably doesn’t bode well for the idea of new material in less than the amount of time to get from their last album to here, but it’s a satisfying companion piece to a discography that grows ever more fascinating.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.