The fantasy-meets-pastoral artwork that Robert Beatty (Three Legged Race, Hair Police) produced for Physicalist, the third LP from New York-based synthesists Forma, is a direct reflection of the direction that the group is now exploring. The trio released a pair of successful LPs for the Editions Mego spin-off label Spectrum Spools earlier this decade that were heavily indebted to the Berlin School branch of Krautrock; with this record, they've incorporated flute, piano and acoustic percussion to root their sound within the confines of their home planet.
That's not to say that the synths have disappeared — there are plenty of angular arpeggios and chilly rhythms to soothe those who crave that 1970s sci-fi atmosphere. Consider Physicalist a step forward, a luscious song cycle originating from those earlier Spectrum Spools LPs, but with a second half aimed at exploring a realm of sonic potential that the group had yet to realize. The ghostly piano improvisations and abstract synth lines are married so tightly that they appear nearly inseparable here, and "Improvisation for Flute and Piano," which closes out the proceedings, is surprisingly delicate considering what preceded it.
With Physicalist, Forma have issued a gorgeous statement that extends beyond being a culmination of their previous work. This LP is an example of a collective approaching its zenith. (Kranky)
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