Analogue synthesizer albums are having a real renaissance of late, and the Pan label run by Bill Kouligas, has had more than a little something to do with this phenomena. Leads, patches and antiquated equipment are stretched and shattered into a thousand tiny pieces, and then reconstituted into new and interesting shapes. Whilst a number of these albums employ sheer head-blasting bafflement in order to boldly stamp their mark on the experimental scene, the duo of Ankersmit and Tricoli reign in their most truculent impulses to deliver an album that balances complexity with nuance; analogue synthesis with digital manipulation. Forma II has been out for quite some time now (in fact, Pan went on to release another seven albums in 2011) and has made the top releases lists of a variety of media and musical tastemakers; on the strength of multiple immersions in the hermetic sound world of Forma II, this album’ inclusion by The Wire et. al is well deserved. The twin poles of stasis and dynamism are represented within Forma II in a manner unlike that of any other contemporary sound artists. With Forma II, Ankersmit and Tricoli have produced a true original that rewards full immersion in their ocean of sound.
Tracks One through Four assemble a detailed and compelling take on the austere world of electroacoustic textures, mixing in a deluge of digital scree, approaching the whole with a lightness of touch that allows Forma II to be digested as a coherent whole without any sign of gastric reflux. Opening with the hyper-detailed waves of “Zwerm voor Tithonus’, where analogue raw materials are digitally manipulated to resemble an imaginary score for Kafka’ Metamorphosis written by Luc Ferrari or Nurse With Wound. Waves of static, hum and dissonance pile high, forming a huge termite mound of sound. “Brent Mini’ retreats into nocturnal high-pitched sonorities and holy drones that slide across the stereo field – it’s a lowercase micro sound that is best suited to headphones and deep listening. “Hunt’s reminds me of the London Underground; all squealing brakes and electric flares, which are elongated and manipulated with a metaphorical razor blade, into a ghostly palimpsest of an apocryphal event played back on a musty tape deck. The work of Eliane Radigue is referenced on “Plague #7′, as the duo fast forward to their interpretation of the most intense passages of Adnos III, getting to the crux of the matter in two minutes, rather than half an hour (which could be missing the whole unfolding ritual of Radigue). Eerie echoes and subtle clicking, reminiscent of a forest of cicadas on a warm summers evening, transport the listener on an otherworldly journey of grand proportions. “Plague #7′ is a masterful summation of the spaciousness and technique that has led to this juncture.
The fact that Thomas Ankersmit has worked with the head of the Experimental Intermedia universe, minimalist Phil Niblock, comes as no surprise to me when listening to concluding track “Takht-e TÃ¢vus’. Niblock’ work for the Touch label from the last decade, generally loop and edit single instruments. Recorded with simple equipment, these recordings are then cleaned up in Protools, allowing the inherent decay and microtones that emerge as the piece unfolds to develop a woozy minimalist aesthetic. On “Takht-e TÃ¢vus’, Ankersmit’s Alto Sax reveals multiple frequencies and modes through the utilization of Niblock’ technique. Sustained passages of controlled chaos, where seemingly twenty or more horns pile up on each other are followed by more meditative modes allowing the provenance of the unearthly drones to shine through. Forma II would be the perfect soundtrack to the birth of a new planet, if only the omnipotent listener was able to summon this moment of conception up with the click of a mouse.