Exercising restraint is a much more daunting task for any musician, let alone one with Forté’s ability. By being more selective with release points and opting for mood over vitality, you run the risk of alienating your fan base in favor of a more nuanced approach, yet, if executed properly, it often makes for a richly rewarding listen. Forté’s sophomore effort, mi-MOH-suh-pud-EE-kuh: A Lo-Fi Album, is a drastic stylistic departure from Transitus — a darker, more adventurous effort that demands patience from the listener but recompenses with brooding purity.
This much is evident from “Over You,” the album’s jarring opening track. With little more than a faint acoustic guitar strum, Forté echoes the yearning haunt of Marissa Nadler, her vocals — hushed and reticent — assuming the forefront. The song’s seemingly withdrawn tension stands in stark contrast to Transitus, harnessing what would otherwise have culminated in a rousing, guitar-driven explosion in favor of a lonesome whimper.
“Behind the Curtain,” meanwhile, recalls the drunken fervor of Tom Waits at his most urgent, with its ominous piano creaks and banjo plucks serving as the canvas for what is easily Forté’s most emotive vocal performance to date. Instruments clatter and clank; arrangements become more disheveled; and Forté unleashes a gravelly, unintelligible wail strictly designed to raise the hair on your neck. The song is equal parts thrilling and horrifying, and it is inarguably her most fascinating composition.
“Over You” and “Behind the Curtain” occupy overtly dissimilar ends of the musical spectrum — one guarded beauty, the other discordant cacophony. In between, Forté gives us everything from PJ Harvey’s shadowy jangle-pop to Nick Cave’s blues-based sound experiments. Navigating through such disparate sequencing — especially 16 songs and 44 minutes worth — can be grueling for even the most persistent listener, and mi-MOH-suh does succumb to this at times. While the sheer volume of ideas present within the album is something to behold, trimming it down to a cleaner 12 tracks and a sub-40-minute runtime would have made for a more accessible listen.
But that’s not at all what mi-MOH-suh was intended to be. This is a record that cracks its door open so that just a glint of light protrudes, inviting the listener inside but doing so reluctantly. And while unconventional in sequencing and composition, Forté has compiled a remarkably rewarding collection of songs, and it’s her most daring and accomplished work to date.