I've noticed that I've been senselessly wrapped up in American Idol again. The show, which I dig like a car crash, is almost entirely built around the concept of realization. When you consider how the various vocalists, most of them exceptionally talented, approach a song, the concept of realization emerges. The competition centres around the idea of bringing out the concrete nature of a song, of making it something tangible and something that will sell to a mass audience.
What would happen if American Idol were based around the idea of derealization? One might imagine that the notion behind singing or appropriating songs would shift significantly, as the goal wouldn't be to make the songs tangible at all. The aim of derealization, at least in this sense, would be to create something intangible, perhaps even untouchable.
That's precisely what The Forms have done with their new EP. Derealization is a collective of six songs, each of them loving deconstructions of existing compositions.
"It started as an accident," says Matt Walsh, one half of the two-person Forms. "We had just received the vinyl of our last record. I was so excited that I dropped the needle down without checking the speed on the turntable, which was set to 45 instead of 33. Immediately, we were blown away at how the songs took on a whole new character at that speed."
It is hard to imagine a happier accident, isn't it? A lot of the greatest stuff we call art has emerged out of such a seemingly destructive approach. Paint splashes somehow morph into something abstract. A guitar smashed to smithereens offers up a kaleidoscope of violent noise in final desperate protest. Film is purposely damaged to achieve a unique visual effect. And so on.
Walsh and Alex Tween's compositions really do come into new existence under these arrangements. Using melodies and lyrics from the band's two previous records, Icarus and The Forms, the six tracks on Derealization nest themselves as distilled, diffused pieces of work. Recorded with producer Scott Solter (Superchunk, St. Vincent), the EP fully explores the mysterious happenings behind the total breakdown of standard songs.
All but one of the tracks fit under the three minute mark. A group of musical friends are along for the ride, too, with The National's Matt Berninger lending his vocals to "Fire to the Ground" and Pattern Is Movement's Andrew Thiboldeaux digging in on the gospel-inspired "Steady Hand."
So the next time I watch American Idol, I'm going to jack the sound way up and play it backwards. Listening for the cracks and the skips and the blubbering confusion, I'm going to revel in the glorious dissonance and beautiful flavours. And I'm going to thank The Forms for the marvellous idea.