Madagascar is the newest signee on the small (but excellent) Western Vinyl records, and their eclectic sound only adds to the very diverse output that the label has released over the past couple years (including everyone from the ambient electronics of Bexar Bexar to the erratic work of the Dirty Projectors). Forced March is one of those rare releases that sounds like it could have been recorded at any point in the past decade or so. With a wide range of acoustic instrumentation that includes accordion, ukelele, musical saw, glockenspiel, and many more, the release blends together everything from Eastern-European folk to gypsy sounds.
Although the title of the album evokes the journey towards an inevitable end that usually ends with a grave, the album certain isn't oppressive, although it often laments. The opening track of "All That Spring You Could See Halley's Comet" shuffles with singing saw, strings, banjo and accordion, and given the title it calls back to a time before telescopes, when the naked-eye viewing of a comet itself was a more mystical occasion. "I'm So Tired Of Violets (Take Them All Away)" brings back some of the same elements for a track that's sparse and nostalgic, hanging on single plucked notes as subtle singing saw crys hauntingly in the background.
The recording technique used on the release (mainly recorded with room mics as everyone played together in one space) only adds to the immediate feel of the piece. While the tracks themselves are played very well, there are occasionally moments where one instrument is a bit louder than it should be or some other small element makes itself known and reminds one that the group is a living breathing element rather than an album made up of overdubs.
A short album of only seven songs and just over a half-hour in running length, Forced March manages to keep things fairly interesting by not lingering too much on one track for epic lengths, and shorter, more vibrant pieces like "A Brief Stroll" help to keep the release moving along and not sinking into a funereal march. In places, wordless vocals creep into the mix, adding even more of a human element, and while they're not as forthright as work by Black Ox Orchestra, you'd probably do well seeking out this release if you enjoy their work. Definitely a unique release from a group who has very few contemporaries, Forced March is for those looking for sounds from another place and time.