Recently Alex Smalley was the deserved recipient of much acclaim for his (and Svitlana Samoylenko's) Olan Smith album Paths, and here he returns not long after that release with another, this time a Pausal recording with bandmate Simon Bainton. Not to simplify matters too much, but if Paths is a stellar example of the classical-electronic genre, Forms, Pausal's sophomore production for Barge Recordings (available in an edition of 250 LPs), is an also-impressive foray into ambient soundscaping. It takes its inspiration from the work of 19th-century naturalist Ernst Haeckel, whose publication Kunstformen der Natur (Art Forms of Nature) provides the source for the album's title and eye-catching cover artwork.
Despite the nature-based title, “Fertiliser / Horticulture / Mower” has its head in the clouds as much as on the ground, especially when celestial episodes appear made up of harp plucks, delicate piano sprinkles, and effects that turn electronic textures into micro-slivers of sound. That stately opening piece segues quickly into the noisier “Milk Whistle / Pollen Counter” wherein a buzzing swarm drones, its inner voice elements smothered by the beehive of activity and a rising cloud mass of ominous portent; the piece's second half morphs into a rather Popol Vuh-esque episode that could be heard as Pausal's take on ‘70s kosmische musik. Here and elsewhere, Smalley and Bainton effect transitions from one section to the next so smoothly that the mutations, dramatic as they are, happen almost imperceptibly. The album's second side revisits the celestial climes of the first when the orchestral swirls of “Fruiting Bodies / Liberty Capped” ebb and flow like some unreleased Gas composition before “Lawn Aura / World Away / Decomposition” likewise revisits side A's Popol Vuh section for a prolonged exercise in sunblinding.The forty-minute full-length is interestingly structured in that it features four long-form settings that comprise ten sub-sections. In truth, that detail could be a tad misleading as the album plays more like a continuous flow of contrasting mood-pieces, somewhat akin to time-lapse footage of rapidly shifting weather patterns. Often bucolic and euphoric in tone, the material was created using guitar and laptop/sampler as the main sound-generators, with a range of dusty vinyl (‘60s girl groups, ‘70s French pop, and classical music) and the creators' voices adding to the album's fertile sonic terrain. For the fullest experience of the recording, one is advised to turn the volume up and let the sound flood the room. Doing so could very easily render one spellbound by Forms' wondrous clusters of sound.