The Formalist transmit atmospheric ambience in modern electro pop single ‘Happenstance’


Olivia Rayner

Pioneering the intersection of ambient and experimental genres, The Formalist, led by Stephen Krieger and Erik Laroi, announce the release of their first 2024 single, the alluring ‘Happenstance’.

Serving as the prelude to their much-anticipated album, ‘Happenstance’ showcases The Formalist's innovative fusion of cold electro beats and lush synths expertly dusted with Erik Laroi's ethereal vocals. This return solidifies their ability to blur the lines between electronic and organic, crafting an immersive experience that resonates with both past and present.

In this introspective track, extracted from the forthcoming album A Trace Of Yourself, to be released later this year, The Formalist explores the serendipitous nature of the traces we leave behind. Laroi's poignant lyrics narrate a complex relationship with nostalgia, touching on the unexpected and often melancholic nature of the imprints we create. The accompanying lyric video, composed entirely of Erik's family home movies, immerses the audience in an esoteric, vintage world, delivering a poignant visual counterpart to the band's exploration.

‘Happenstance’ challenges the conventions of modern electropop, infusing the genre with a boomy and engaging energy that belies the sardonic undertones of the lyrics. Laroi's multilayered vocal delivery, ranging from whispered intimacy to powerful exclamation, adds depth to the narrative. The track's juxtaposition of a cold electro foundation with warm synths and distorted bass culminates in a sonic plane that is simultaneously nostalgic and forward-thinking.

Drawing inspiration from the turn of the Millennium and contemporary artists like Broken Bells and James Blake, The Formalist invites listeners into their ambient atmosphere, an intricate, undulating soundscape that defies traditional boundaries and expectations. A harmonious clash of Krieger's encircling experimentations and Laroi's melodic sensibilities.

As the lead single for the upcoming album, ‘Happenstance’ sets a stage that promises to captivate and challenge the listener. Edgy and utterly enticing this initial offering is certain to prick ears and firmly hold them in place as the dynamic duo return to the fold, seamlessly merging the human and digital realms into an unparalleled auditory experience.


Imagine standing at a doorway and hearing, wafting from a distant room, sounds from your past – pop music, but atmospheric and wistful in a way you can't quite place. From the other side of the door a deep, throbbing beat has you wondering “what sort of party is happening in there?” As you linger, immersed in these things simultaneously, that's The Formalist.

Formed by Brooklyn-born Krieger (beats, sampling) and Norwegian Erik Laroi (vocals, guitar) back in 2006, The Formalist is a fascinating fusion of the former’s ambient and experimental leanings and the latter’s more song-based sensibilities. When they first met, Laroi was the drummer for late ’90s shoegaze band Closer and Krieger was in experimental outfit The Freight Elevator Quartet. The Formalist became their outlet for melodic pop songs that both juxtapose and blur the lines between electronic and organic, connecting through Laroi’s memorable melodies and aching delivery.

The Formalist recorded their eponymous debut in 2008, but it was 2019 before Mother West released the collection, after Laroi had released a series of solo records on the L.A. label. By comparison, the follow-up was conceived in early 2020 and has appeared briskly. “We didn’t really plan on making this record, but circumstances and situations brought us together again,” Laroi explained. “The Formalist is something we do when we feel like we need to do it.”

Source Olivia Rayner

January 26, 2024 6:44am ET by Olivia Rayner  

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