Forma at the Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival

Class act! Bushwick trio lives and plays in an old schoolhouse

for The Brooklyn Paper
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When it is time for this trio to make new music, it literally goes to school.

For the past six years, electronic music group Forma’s home base has been the Schoolhouse, the former elementary school on Ellery Street in Bushwick that has been converted into a living and work space for local artists. It is there that band members Mark Dwinell and John Also Bennett reside, and also where Forma rehearses and records (the group’s third member, George Bennett, lives in Williamsburg).

“We fluctuate between playing in this big room with high ceilings and a smaller room that offers a more close environment,” said Dwinell. “Having both me and John living here too is conducive to us getting together and sharing ideas as they happen.”

That close proximity seems to be having an effect on Forma’s music, too. The band’s first two albums were more open and expansive, resembling early ambient experiments by artists such as Brian Eno and Cluster. But its new EP, “Cool Haptics” — which the band will launch at Williamsburg’s Output as part of the Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival on Nov. 6 — feels more tightly-wound, with a more dance-floor-friendly sound.

“We’ve been going to a lot of straight-up techno shows lately, and getting immersed in that world,” Dwinell said. “It was an unintentional choice to make this kind of dance-y record. It’s just what came out of us.”

The band members also point to their recent acquisition of new equipment — Eurorack-style modular synthesizers that don’t have physical keyboards, just knobs and switches used to adjust the sound — as a huge inspiration for this creative shift.

But although Forma’s sound is shifting towards more club-ready strains of synth music, the band’s strict adherence to recording and performing using physical instruments rather than plugging in a bunch of laptops remains.

“That’s always been an unspoken rule for this project,” said Bennett. “It’s certainly about physicality. For me as a performer, I like to have a physical knob to grab. Just moving your finger on a trackpad and clicking on something doesn’t make sense to me.”

Forma plays Output [74 Wythe Ave. between N. 11th and N. 12th streets in Williamsburg, (917) 333–1000,]. 10 pm. $15–$25.

Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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