Sunday, January 24, 2021

Meet... Small Forward

If American outfit ‘Small Forward’ have named themselves after the position in basketball, they may not be too far off the mark. Something of a utility player, neither the headline grabber nor the substitute; the small forward is -apparently- the unsung hero of the team: shooting occasional hoops but not dunking regular baskets. This might be wildly wide off the mark as an analysis of a tedious game; however, the analogy works.

Small Forward -the band that is- began as college buddies Michael Stevenson and Rounak Maiti jamming in-between -and probably- during their studies. Campbell Scott, a college contemporary, later joined the band alongside Nick Waldram; however, the latter left before composition of the band’s self-titled debut album released in May of this year.


The album arrives some three years after their debut EP ‘Affections’, which -affectionately- was released on cassette tape: indie-gold. Records are démodé now, naturally.

The trio’s musical style slots comfortably into that anachronistic fest of contemporary contented melancholy. There are nods towards the post-60s fatigue of Wings and George Harrison, alongside the ambient futurism of Mazzy Star.


Their most lauded song ‘The Reservoir’ -from their 2017 EP- is a ballpark for their spacey synths, tampered, distant vocals and reverberating low-fi electric guitars. The lines ‘we best go back, it’s getting late… there’s no one left to make a sound’ hints towards a contemporary melancholia, even dislocation; Small Forward, like so many indie bands, feel as though they don’t quite belong. Their tunes, subsequently, are drenched in musical nostalgia. Retrospection seems a musicality of its own. Mark Fisher famously wrote of nostalgic music as a sign of the dearth of invention -a kind of contemporary artistic paralysis- one dreads to imagine what he’d think of Small Forward.


Heavy-handed vocal production blends Maiti and Stevenson’s vocals into something resembling a harmonious sonic yawn. Their youthful sound resembles the juvenile tones of Orlando and Rex Orange County. Generous melodies and gentle chord progressions combine to offer chilled vibes: coffee shop ambience or even late-night charm.


With the backing of indie label, Forget Artifacts, Small Forward are developing their sound along with their place in the industry as a DIY band committed to sound and substance over style and frills. Championing their work on Bandcamp, rather than with a flashy website, seems conscientiously low-fi. This approach has to be applauded at a time of increasing artifice across the arts. One hopes that bands such as Small Forward continue to find their audience at a time when the music industry is more industry than music.

- Fred Kelly

Twitter: fred8kelly

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