One of the most heavily weathered jokes among music fans is the existence of a mythical beast which defies any singular description. This beast is “math rock.” Lo and behold, though: I have found math rock to be alive and well, in the hands of Brooklyn’s The Forms.
The Forms have an obvious affinity for geometry, which is played out through the 18 short minutes of their first album, Icarus. Syncopated four-bar patterns intertwine over shoegaze rhythms and a sense of a lilting three. Corgan-esque vocals in three parts come from the basement to a scream, forming a sort of chorale. I couldn’t begin to explain what they’re going on about, but it’s no more worth discussing than the computations involved in the band’s finger-mashing guitar lines. Let’s just say our young geniuses have it under control, having committed to the parts they play.
Names and identities play a major role on Icarus. The story of the LP’s namesake is easy to visualize in the music, but to see the ghosts of Stravinsky (track 9) and Black Metal (track 10) as relevant to the band’s vision is difficult. Perhaps, like the ancient superstition which gives one power over anyone whose name they know, invoking the names of ghosts gives the band some power over history; in contrast, “Sunday” invokes Sunny Day Real Estate.
The Forms deftly manage to balance post-Pumpkins rock, rejecting its commercialism and unambiguous despair, but at the same time avoiding the unnecessary prolixity of post-rock rock. Behind the shoegaze, there’s something organic, pastoral and joyous. Witness the use of piano to create sublime interludes in the chaos, the haunting art and the calculated joy.
The same singularity of conceptual mind that gives this album its intensity means the listener is faced with a two-color palette; and both the up-tempo and the maestoso passages are equally grandiose. Icarus also shows a band in desperate need of a single (or, perhaps, the skill to craft one) that could put them on the map via radio. The band is also forced to dwell in the shadow of megaproducer Steve Albini (The Pixies, Nirvana), who leaves a heavy-handed stamp on both the music and publicity of The Forms. The real question is whether the band can live up to the hype. The 18 minutes of Icarus, however, show that there’s a lot of hope for The Forms.