Formula 5 is one of those hidden gems hidden within our borders of Upstate New York. The band generally calls Albany, and the surrounding area, home and has been lighting up that scene for a couple of years now. The band’s latest offering, Edging on Catastrophe, is the follow-up to their self-titled debut album that was released last year. From their debut to their sophomore release, the band has grown tremendously in their cohesiveness and general song writing capabilities. The new album as a whole spans many genres, yet keeps a tight flow between songs as they sonically weave their way in and out of each style. Throughout this album, you can hear the guys touch on funk, bluegrass, jam, electronica, blues, reggae, and many others, all while keeping a general theme throughout. The four-piece has developed their identity and this album really shows their comfort within that while still stretching into untouched areas.
The first song that grabbed my attention was “Pedro,” which really showcases guitarist Joe Davis’ skills as he leads the band melodically through this piece. This song illustrates another thing the band does well, which is understanding how far to push a jam. The guys have a great feel for how much is just right and your ears are continuously treated to that balance on this song and throughout the album. The band lays down a solid backing through the first few minutes of the song with a catchy little guitar riff and a chorus that opens up and allows the band to stretch out. As the song progresses, it continually picks up steam until around four minutes in when the band takes it over for some exploratory jamming. Their choices for both the effects on their instruments and overall ambient sound is spot on, providing a perfect and slow-rolling current for keyboardist Mike McDonald to show his skills while trading off with Joe Davis’ riffing. The closing minute of the song swells before relaxing and jumping back into the chorus, bringing it back full-circle and resolving the built-up tension.
My favorite song on the album immediately follows “Pedro” and is appropriately titled “Ride.” The song starts with some ominous keyboard chords before the bass and drums jump in, giving it an STS9-like feel right from the get go. The vocals and instrumentation on this song are layered perfectly and combine for a haunting and transfixing composition. The verses of this song remind me of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World” and has the same internal pull that evokes raw emotion. The second guitar solo that starts around the four-and-a-half-minute mark comes out of nowhere as, leading up to this point, the song was still mellow and relaxed. The driving nature of the band combined with Davis’ playing launches you from the ground and into the outer atmosphere. He makes beautiful lines through the chord progressions and really adds color to the overall song before it slows down again, tucking away into this beautiful environment of ambient tones that’s both driving and relaxing at the same time. At around the eight-minute mark, you can hear a little Paul Simon “You Can Call Me Al” flavor from the keys before the band begins the haunting swell that closes the song. As the pace climbs, notes are blurred together and the beat continues to escalate before they drop you on your face, leaving you wondering where the ride left off.
Throughout the rest of the album, the band does a tremendous job of really engaging the listener with a wide array of music styles, terrific lyrics, and overall top-notch musicianship. If you want a snippet of how talented these guys truly are, take a listen to “Timmy’s Dream,” as the minute-long jam really shows how polished their sound has become in their short existence. I will be the first to admit that I haven’t had the time to check these guys out up until now and I now fully regret that decision. It’s baffling to me how such a young band could put out an album of this caliber; whatever the formula is, it’s dialed in right with these guys and other bands need to take note. Edging on Catastrophe is edging on being the catalyst to a very successful future.
Key Tracks: Pedro, Ride, Nu-Gen