Since they emerged fully-formed with their eponymous debut in 2009, Thought Forms have been releasing a steady stream of music to daydream to. Their unique marriage of progressive post-rock to shimmering sonic backdrops and dusky, Still Corners-ish vocals is a perfect cocktail for any listener looking to be transported away to a world of pure imagination. But, while ‘Thought Forms’ and ‘Ghost Mountain’ offered no strings attached escapism, inviting the listener to burrow away into their own personal mind palaces and hide from the troubles of the outer world, the aptly titled ‘Songs About Drowning’ allows that external ocean of anxiety to start seeping through the walls.
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Much of the band’s post-rock grandeur is shed in favour of a more sinister, low key approach. Gone are the fuzzy duel guitars of ‘Dust Magic’ or ‘Only Hollow’ to be replaced by more considered interplay from guitarists Charlie Romijn and Deej Dhariwal. The pair’s near-psychic connection brings to mind the synchronicity of Lee Renaldo and Thurston Moore on Sonic Youth’s subtler early 00s output, each of their guitar lines alternately coiling round and pulling away from its counterpart again and again and again. But despite the calibre of top shelf influences apparent on the record (Romijn’s Beth Gibbons impression on ‘Inland’ nails the rarely-mimicked alienation of classic Portishead while the Dhariwal-sung ‘Dawn’ channels Beck at his most delicate), it’s when the band strike on their own sound that ‘Songs For Drowning’ impresses most.
One immediate standout track is ‘The Bridge’, a darkly unsettling example of how Thought Forms’ expansive sound can just as easily eclipse the sun as soar towards it. Like live staple ‘Ghost Mountain Me and You’, the song keeps on circling around gaining power and momentum before building up to a cacophony of supercharged sound. But while both songs leave your heart in your mouth and your stomach in knots, ‘The Bridge’ keeps them there to the point of nausea.
There’s a deep sense of dread that hangs over the album, a sense of unease that’s hard to shift for some time after ‘The Lake’ fades to black. It’s a testament to the band’s craftsmanship that they manage to keep this darkness captivating across the whole album without falling back on sparse minimalism and betraying their singularly progressive sound.