This winter, Forte, out of Centreville High School released an all original album titled Uncharted Heart. A cappella fans might remember that Forte put out another all-original album in 2012--Life’s So Lyrical. And fans may be encouraged to hear that this album is no less carefully constructed, creative, and musically brilliant. Carefully recorded by Plaid Productions, mixed by Ed Boyer, and mastered by Dave Sperandio, this group has compiled another dazzler of an album.
The defining quality of this album was the number of songs that made tremendous use of diversified performance and arrangement tactics to get the most out of the music. Time and again, this album featured songs like “Uncharted Heart” and “City of Angels” that started relatively soft and slow, before blossoming into much bigger waves of sound and a faster tempo. Similarly, the sound on “The Cure” varied significantly, making brilliant use of sickness as a metaphor for otherness and hurt, with the recognition that cures aren’t simple, and that half the time people don’t recognize when each other are “sick.” This approach to the music demonstrated some really excellent patience and attention to detail—it’s easy to hit the listener with just one level of emotion, but Forte capitalized on variations in tempo and dynamics to accentuate different parts of their music by contrast—a pulsing beat resonates most clearly after a slower, more subdued take; an explosion of sound really pops in response to a quieter meditation.
Forte also did a nice job of fully realizing the spirit of so many of the songs on this album. “Insomnia” opens with a single soloist, with barely audible backing vocals, which communicated a sense of isolation, only for that vocalist to be joined by a second lead before the group sound worked in more fully, communicating a sense of communal experience and people coming together. The group achieved a similar effect with “The Lost Ones,” with the haunting refrain of, “you’re not the only lost one; I am too.”
In its own right, “Sheep” featured an excellent lead and nice use of swelling harmonies that delivered the sensation of sheep being herded in a single direction. Even something as simple as the title and refrain of “Flickering Flame” being so alliterative let a sense of capturing the image of a flame burning in and fading out through the recurrence of that F-F- sound.
This album most clearly hit its stride for me on “Before the Flood,” the lone track not written by the group, but rather offered up by pro Tat Tong. The use of effects on this track was a great contrast to the more pure a cappella sound up to that point, and the track featured a handful of really cool Easter eggs, like a downward slur on when the group sang about dominoes, creating an aural illusion of dominoes falling down.
“Lights Up Ahead” represented another high point for me. The group demonstrated both a really mature sound and perspective on song writing in this track which easily could have become melodramatic, but that they instead kept restrained, allowing it to slowly and beautifully unravel in its closing movements.
The album wrapped powerfully from there, moving from the emotionally intense, broken lamentation of lost love on “Roses Fall” to the mini-epic of “Always Okay,” a really nicely built anthem that was also a near-perfect call back to “The Lost Ones,” in the lyric, “take my hand, I want to get lost with you.”
Uncharted Heart is a brilliant collection of original music in which Forte demonstrates maturity well beyond its years. It’s definitely worth checking out.