the soft form dissolves - Pattern Recognition (Album Review)

The recently released trailer for the Tetris movie led me down a wikihole where I landed upon "The Tetris Effect". The Tetris effect is when you engage in a game for an extended period, and the logic of the game world follows you into the real one. So, for example, a chess player might spend hours playing chess, then later in the supermarket, move her prawns slowly up her shopping basket. Terrible joke. Call it frequency illusion, but my newfound interest in pattern recognition recently aligned with my discovery of "Pattern Recognition" by NY-based artist the soft form dissolves. This album of explorative lo-fi experimentation is precariously built upon patterns of synthesisers, whispery vocals, piano, guitar, and odd bits. The pieces stretch from long, vague instrumental passages to explicit and accessible songs built with a delicate constitution. 

While little biographical information is available about the soft form dissolves, we know the artist is based in Ridgewood, NY, uses they/them pronouns, and is a psychoanalyst otherwise known as x yz. The project is far from nascent, practically a Bandcamp alumni, having released the Grilled Cheese EP in 2015. Their genre-ambiguous music is multifaceted and abstract, frenziedly landing on scuzzy and emo-leaning rock, folk and alternative. The lyrics range from the poetically simple to the obscure, stream-of-consciousness ramblings that reference bodily harm ("Carve a "C" in the papercut"), salad (more than once), and the downright befuddled, like the chestnut ("Lackluster erasure in a fiddle box canoe"). To look for any meaning may necessitate paracetamol. Thankfully, the lyrics here seem beside the point. 

As far as accessibility goes, "Sorrento, The Brave" provides the snappiest production and most memorable writing. In the dreamy "Are You Lucky or Are You Dead or ..." the repetitive ostinato psychedelic dips in and out of spluttered percussion and unintelligible singing before exploding in a cacophonous finale. The shortest track, "GPS Failure and/or BOB", is a succinct ode to breezy lounge performances and early video game soundtracks. 

This expansive album is 16 tracks deep, and throughout, themes are reinforced by repetitive and quickly identifiable patterns, even as they perenially morph into strange passages of Midwest chamber pop like on "Lost Hat in the Woods". Among the highlights is the breathily titled and well-thought-out suite of alternative pop that is "Codependent No More - How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself. [Center City, MN]". Hidden past the first few awkward minutes of out-of-tune crooning, the listener is treated to a cinnamon-sweet pop rock where harmonies abound on a winding melody of loveable attitude. 


At times, it sounds self-servicing; the obscurity, the length, the politics of taking an "anything is good if it's interesting" ethos. Yet such liberties are earned, especially on the pretty "_Discontinued_ ", the heavily atmospheric "Night Court [Pilot]", which adds shredding electric guitar to sadcore electronica a la Casiotone For The Painfully Alone, or the gnarly rhythm and pure beauty of the fascinating album highlight "The Clandestine Eradication of ΓΈ", which alternates between ultra-amateur indie rock before turning to a mega-professional and sweeping chorus. It's expected that on an album of 16 songs, not all are good. The bizarre "Sleep Paralysis", with its circus accordion tones, and the morose "Drinking in a Field ("I Wish I Were")" feel unnecessarily waffly for tracks so deep into an album that generously gives itself so much time. And for as much joy as there is on offer, there is plenty of sadness, frustration, and darkness. These aspects are found in a sinisterly discordant new wave that leaves you feeling disoriented emotionally but never uncared for, compensated with smatterings of wonder among the more befuddled. Such is the case for the closing track, a traditionally lovely piece of epic rock music; indecipherable but recognisable, Saudade but inspirational, accessible but off-kilter.  

There are patterns all around us; from our social media feeds to our relationships, we are bound to a patterned existence, only able to break free by, however ironically, referencing patterns in willed thought and art, which can twist our perception of time and space with sound and ideas. Daringly original, Pattern Recognition by the soft form dissolves is substantial music which requires some concessions from the listener in return for layers of emotion and a worldview void of needless barriers.