Written By: Joe Brown
Thought Forms are a trio from South West of England, currently signed to Invada Records who are releasing their Jim Barr-produced second full-length album, Ghost Mountain. The span of time between debut self-titled LP and this latest release may have been longer than most bands are comfortable with, but the four year gap meant that this record wasn’t rushed and they were able to develop and round out their sound. A particularly new development on this album being that vocals are more of a regular feature compared to the earlier release, with more exposed and melodic passages throughout the album.
The album’s opener “Landing” shows off this trait with abundance as distant screams burst out from the sludge of the opening riff, which serves to introduce their intentions with clear authority. The deep, heavy grooves fill the listener with a dread of the repetition that is slowly, but deliberately grinding you down with the screeching of the underlying, siren-esque sounds that course through. Tortured by this gripping onslaught until it strips down, its relative calm, yet pained vocals are a soothing lullaby compared to the harsh surroundings that preceded it. Things soon pick up as it marches on with the addition of a higher vocal harmony coming in with the intention to wipe away any doubt about the progression the band had undergone over the years. The vocals on this track seem to channel Frank Black of Tame, employing the sheer force of primal, guttural screams.
On the titular track, “Ghost Mountain You and Me,” you may draw associations to Sonic Youth with a “Rather Ripped”-tinged sound of subtly jangling dissonance, as Thought Forms display a deep texture of intertwining guitars that are tuned in to just the right amount of jangle and a laid-back, riding rhythm that builds, at times harking back to their first album. The arc slowly reaches for a crescendo with distant vocals that float on top, creating a heady mix, very much reminiscent of Asobi Seksu. Thoughts Forms also show off their knack for creating dense, controlled soundscapes that breathe with a various of dynamics including, but not limited to, patterns of “loud, quiet, loud” in the vein of a fine-tuned, cinematic “post-rock.”
As “Ghost Mountain…” fades out, “Sans Soleil” rises up smoothly into a bleak landscape that befits the title (sans soleil meaning “sunless” in French). As Charlie and Deej’s vocals play off of each other’s, there is a lingering sense of dread as the foreboding riff tenses up only for a brief release as it pushes relentlessly onwards. There are even a few moments where you can hear their masterful control and use of feedback, subtle as it is, as it sits in at just the right place, never overbearing, which is too often the case.
The slow drone of “Burn Me Clean” opens up the album’s epic thirteen-minute centerpiece . It’s joined by a lone, ethereal chant, calling out amongst sparse drumming that effectively anchors everything so that the listener does not get too lost in the anti-gravity of this “other world.” There’s a real sense of the Middle East “world music” as melodies don’t stick to conventional western archetypes and a dissonant pipe blares onto the scene, adding a mysterious texture that evokes an uneasy disturbance . The slow, deliberate pacing creates such a tranquility that hypnotizes you that, once the feedback and the blast of distortion and screeching lead guitar hits, it leaves you figuratively broken.
One of the more radio-friendly tracks, “Only Hollow” (possibly a slight nod to My Bloody Valentine), is up next and it has the huge task of following up the juggernaut of “Burn Me Clean.” Its fuzzy, punky, noise-pop brings the energy of Ghost Mountain back up with Thought Forms‘ loud, abrasive edge that has the potential to be a staple in soundtracks to skate videos for years to come.
The pace slows down with “Afon” (Welsh for “river”), as Charlie takes the form of a siren as her soft, beautiful voice lulls you into a trance at quite the meditative pace. The total mournful soundscape leaves room for a moment of reflection before launching into the a more psychedelic-tinged world with “Song For Junko,” which again shows skilled interplay between Deej and Charlie, not only between guitars, but the chemistry between their vocals as well. This is also where Guy’s drumming stands out as he exploits the opportunity to be more adventurous with his playing, including rolls, to add a sense of urgency underneath the spacey mix. When things kick into the brash wall-of-sound, it’s Guy’s playing that takes the track to a whole new level as he punches through and ensures that the last part of the album finishes with a definitive power.
The finale of Thought Forms‘ sophomore LP, simply titled “O,” takes a page out of “Burn Me Clean”‘s book with the slow-cooker saunter, yet now enhanced with spacey, oscillating noise intersecting in the desolate, post-apocalyptic wasteland, which then transcends even further with a burst of Kinski-esque power rock to ensure that Ghost Mountain finishes apropos: in a loud, triumphant flurry of noise!