The first, self-titled Forma album found strength in its toothlessness. Presented with a crater-lined LP jacket, its sonic innards were kosmische glory and golden age radiophonic atmospherics, the stuff of grade school science filmstrips and budget sci-fi. If there was a rhythmic pulse to it all, it was barebones, metronomic, and functional, appropriately so, mind you. Despite the lack of percussive complexity, the drums were structural arrangements essential to the rudimentary, modular traction of each piece. The biggest shift on their newest LP, On/Off is a foregrounding of electronic drums, but it’s a foregrounding that performs the same operational function as soft rock drums — beats to suit the half-comatose.
Forma still have a pristine melody or two in them, but they’re not nearly as consistently pretty as they were on their debut, even though they’re largely duplicating the same mode. The difference is late ’70s Cluster versus mid 80s Moebius. And while the latter ain’t always that bad, there’s been such a warm abundance of the former in recent years, including the first Forma album, that it seems unnecessary to steer your ears any in any other direction when seeking out this stuff.