Exposé Online banner

Forrest Fang — Folklore
(Cuneiform Rune 68, 1995, CD)

by Peter Thelen, 1995-07-01:

Folklore Cover art This is Forrest Fang's first album for Cuneiform, but his sixth overall. Through the years, Fang's music has gradually shifted from a more ambient/electronic music (Eno, Terry Riley) mixed with acoustic instrumentation like violin and mandola, to a something closer to traditional Chinese classical music. Folklore, like the two previous records, employs a multitude of non-western instruments (and in some cases additional musicians to play them), yet these are not applied to the music in stock traditional ways: a track may combine Burmese gongs, Mexican clay drums, balalaika, guzheng (Chinese zither) and a Thai metallophone for example. In short, his original eastern-influenced compositions are arranged for wide ranging instrumentation drawn from many cultures. This is the crux of Fang's style. So what does it sound like? The music here covers a lot of territory, and one might at times be reminded of the work of Robert Rich or Steve Roach (both of whom are featured on one track here), the floating style of Jade Warrior during their Island period, the German band Between, classical and traditional Chinese music, and even some Javanese / Balinese elements. One thing worth noting is that the music features very little keyboard type synthesizers or any amplified western instruments, although certain sounds are obviously produced using samplers. Voices are used on one track, evoking a native-American spirituality. Folklore is above all a cerebral experience, a floating evocation of eastern cultural elements in the framework of western music and technology. Frankly, I think a lot of folks might enjoy this, as long as the expectations are clear. If the quieter, and more culturally diverse elements of progressive music interest you, then by all means check this out.

by Rob Walker, 1995-07-01:

While Fang's earlier material was more firmly based in the electronic and progressive rock genres, his recent recordings have found him delving deeper and deeper into experimentation with various non-Western musics. Most noticeable among these have been various Asian musical traditions, including Chinese, Japanese, Tibetan, and Balinese. However, Fang doesn't limit his tonal palette to strictly Eastern sounds, incorporating Middle Eastern, African, Indian, and South American instruments into his world music stew. Folklore is quite aptly titled, then, for the music on this album is strongly reflective of the folk and classical musical traditions of a variety of cultures. It is obvious that Fang has undertaken some serious study of non-Western musics, as evidenced by the highly idiomatic writing for the diverse array of instruments he employs on this album. Assisted by a variety of Eastern musicians, he effectively captures the essence of these musical traditions in his own compositions. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of Folklore, though, is Fang's clever juxtaposition of these various musics, incorporating instruments from one tradition into the style of another, and weaving all these instruments and styles into his own personal musical tapestry. And though this album is primarily based in traditional world musics, Fang's musical past is not completely forgotten; Steve Roach and Robert Rich both contribute some very effective electronic textures which subtly enhance the pieces without disrupting the otherwise acoustic ambiance. The album overall is very effective; Fang creates and maintains a predictably exotic but also a rather mysterious atmosphere, and this sense of mystery increases as the album progresses. On later tracks, strange (to Western ears) vocalizations mingle with the acoustic/electronic instrumental moods, creating some intriguing sonic landscapes. In this regard Folklore is quite reminiscent of some of Mexican composer Jorge Reyes' work, in particular the haunting and evocative album Nierika. Though Folklore may be a bit too much in the world music vein for some progressive music listeners, anyone with an interest in non-Western musics should definitely find this album an enjoyable release.

Filed under: New releases , Issue 7 , 1995 releases

Related artist(s): Forrest Fang, Robert Rich, Steve Roach

More info

Latest news

2018-09-29
Marty Balin RIP – One of the architects of the 60s psychedelic sound of San Francisco has died at the age of 76. Marty Balin was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist who was one of the founders of Jefferson Airplane. After the split of the original Airplane, Balin went on to form the highly successful Jefferson Starship. » Read more

2018-09-25
Help the Psychic Equalizer Avoid Extinction – Last year we reviewed the debut album by Psychic Equalizer, a musical project of Hugo Selles. He's now working on the ambitious follow-up to that release, and is seeking funding from listeners around the world. » Read more

2018-09-05
Krautrock Documentary Seeks Funding – The next installment of the Progressive Warriors documentary series will focus on the vast body of music that falls under the banner of "krautrock." As most of our readers will know, previous films have tackled RIO and the Canterbury scene, as well as what we might call "mainstream" prog rock. » Read more

2018-07-31
Tomasz Stańko RIP – Tomasz Stańko, one of the greats of Eastern European jazz, has died at the age of 76. Stańko's career started in Krzysztof Komeda's quintet, where he contributed trumpet from 1963-1967, when he formed his own group. He worked extensively with Edward Vesala, Don Cherry, Zbigniew Seifert, Chico Freeman, Howard Johnson, Cecil Taylor, and many others. Many of his recordings have been released by ECM, an association that began in the mid-70s. » Read more

2018-07-09
Soft Machine Set to Release New Music – It's been 50 years since The Soft Machine changed the face of music with their first album. Their blend of psychedelic rock and jazz was unique, and while the band went through many changes before disbanding in 1981 — by which time there were no original members remaining — they remained an innovative force with a style all their own. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Happy Family - "Flying Spirit Dance" Live – It's rare that I'll devote an extensive review to cassette, let alone to a demo cassette - but this band is so special that I feel compelled to sound out their praise far and wide. Happy Family are...  (1993) » Read more

Donovan - The Donovan Concert: Live in L.A. – 60s folk icon Donovan appeared at the Kodak Theater in LA on his 2007 tour to a packed house of acolytes from the Transcendental Meditation foundation (led by filmmaker David Lynch). From the get-go,...  (2009) » Read more

Unitopia - More Than a Dream – More Than a Dream is probably the best of the recent Unicorn Digital releases, and that is saying a lot! Unitopia hails from Down Under and they independently released More Than a Dream in 2005, which...  (2008) » Read more

November - The First of November – Thirty seconds into the first cut you'll swear you're listening to some lost Peter Gabriel album from around 1980. This track, "Africa, Where Are You," has all of the phrasing and style down pat,...  (1995) » Read more

Mirage - Live 14.12.94 – Another reunion dinosaur roars back to life? Mirage has come out from the near Jurassic age, taken a single step forward and unfortunately appears to die on the spot! Whereas Camel and Caravan were...  (1995) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues