Pin It
forma-credit_Seze Devres
photo by Seze Devres

FORMA on Deck‏

The Sustain Release Trio selects five influential synth tracks

This September a new, experimental music festival, Sustain Release, comes to New York. Showcasing the cream of the crop in dance music alongside emerging artists about to break, we've got a seven-part special today going in deep with the creators – get up to speed here.

FORMA’s combustible mixture of lush synth explorations and frenetic rhythm has captivated the margins of the international synth scene since their acclaimed 2011 debut on John Elliott’s Spectrum Spools label. Following 2012’s dark and penetrating OFF/ON, the trio set a direct course toward the shadowy perimeter of the dance floor, with John Also Bennett replacing original member Sophie Lam. FORMA’s celebrated live performances -- extended improvisational journeys veering from the ecstatic to the foreboding -- draw techno, noise, and synth disciples into their realm. FORMA will present a live performance as part of The Bunker New York showcase at Sustain-Release festival on September 13, giving attendees a fresh glimpse at their evolving sound, that will be exposed to the rest of the world in late October when their "Cool Haptics" EP drops on The Bunker New York label.


Steve Roach / Structures >From Silence / Fortuna / 1984

I’m not sure exactly when I first came upon Steve Roach, whether it was listening to Echoes on NPR as a teenager or surfing the Wikipedia article for “space music”, but his sounds have been in heavy rotation on my personal playlist for years. Because a lot of his later work is so awash in new-age vibes Steve Roach sometimes gets brushed aside by more ‘serious’ synth-heads, but his pioneering use of digital synthesizers, long form compositional style and production wizardry make him worthy of highbrow consideration. He sculpted a genre of ambient music all his own after early experiments with more arpeggiated, Klaus Shultze-esque kosmische, shifting to a more contemplative, ethereal sound. It’s hard to choose just one Steve Roach track to represent here (there are so many, and they are all so long), but I’ll link to the recently reissued / re-mastered ambient classic Structures from Silence (get it for the title track)the work that first established Roach’s signature style.

Voices From the Lake / Velo di Maya EP  /  The Bunker New York / 2014

I first heard this record when it came though the pressing plant I was working at in Brooklyn, and due to various circumstances I ended up with the responsibility of approving the test pressings. I listened to this record over and over and over again, trying to make sure there were no noise problems, analyzing every detail of the audio. It was embedded into my musical consciousness, and when Forma went to go see VFTL live at The Bunker they sealed the deal. Driving hypnotic techno with an ambient touch.


Bookworms & Steve Summers / "Possible Worlds" / Confused House / 2013

Steve Summers showed me how to use drum machines as tools of chance and obfuscation. The rhythmic aspects of his live solo performances -- with their layered syncopations, defamiliarized samples, and hazy cyclic feel -- always emerged through a certain executional deftness and fluidity that I had not witnessed before and felt compelled to move towards. On Confused House 1, Summers teams up with Bookworms to capture the essence of their epic live voyages together, and the result is a record at once slumberous and unrelenting. 


The Pool / 333 / "Bisa Blues" / Enigma Records / 1984 

I love the hunt for old obscure electronic records that I've never heard of before. In this case the insane video cover art is what drew me in. I checked the credits and saw that it's a one man show with vocals, synths, guitars, drum computer. Lead lines in this are so Forma. I love to hear when minimal parameters are followed that there can be very similar results -  across the decades this weird dude's music speaks to me. 

Holger Hiller / Jonny/Das Feuer 12" / "Das Feuer" / Cherry Red Records / 1984 

Kosmiche of course, but then there's Neue Deutsche Welle. Second wave of German minimal brilliance. New tools, new techniques. Holger Hiller's work is so varied and hard to categorize. I like the way this minimalist jam builds up to a sort of triumphant, populist chant. Can only guess what the lyrics are...

Forma play live at Sustain-Release Festival on the Bossa Nova stage at 12am Saturday September 13 as part of a showcase for The Bunker New York