By the time of Formula, Old had very much evolved from one kind of musical beast into another, finding a place where a distanced, retro-technological approach fed into a slow, head-nodding metal stomp. It's not quite what Trans Am also created -- there's less in the way of rock god flash and more odd transmissions from all-robot civilizations, helped in large part by the way Alan Dubin distorts or treats his vocals. Plotkin's compositions often rely on a careful blend of textured sounds -- drawn-out feedback tones turned into serene textures, keyboards creating trance-like melodies, the steady, rough beat of drum machines. Songs like "Break [You]" and "Underglass" often have a true beauty as well -- consider how the mid-song guitar overdub adds a new, beautiful shimmer to the song, invigorating and majestic, or the latter's soaring keyboard line and almost sweetly serene overall arrangement. Plotkin's epic drone guitar solos, in particular, take many of the songs to the next level; if kept low in the mix compared to the rhythms, the results on "Devolve" and "Rid" often have a soaring, unexpected kind of grace and power, confirming his well-deserved reputation on the instrument. "Last Look," which begins on a somewhat arid note, like Head of David only even more just sort of there, works against the relatively flat rhythm and delivery through out-of-nowhere stops and starts. There's even a part where everything completely shifts into a weird orchestral loop and sample -- when the arrangement returns, not only does the mechanized beat sound better, but the extra guitar overdubs add a low-key grandeur previously lacking in the song. Dubin's heavily vocodored vocals here also sound better at the end, an alien passion seeping through his strained delivery.
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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett