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

2020-07-22
Tim Smith RIP – Tim Smith, leader of the eccentric band Cardiacs, has died at the ago of 59 after many years of health problems. Cardiacs was known for intense and complicated music that combined punk energy with the rhythmic and harmonic sophistication of progressive rock. » Read more

2020-07-12
Judy Dyble RIP – Singer-songwriter Judy Dyble, who was a founding member of Fairport Convention and one of the distinctive voices of the 60s folk revival in Britain, has died at the age of 71. Her passing came at the end of a long illness, though which she continued to work. » Read more

2020-07-06
Ennio Morricone RIP – Famed composer Ennio Morricone has died at the age of 91. The creator of scores for more than 500 movies, some of his works have become the most recognizable sounds in the history of cinema. His soundtracks for Sergio Leone's Westerns made from 1964 to 1971, are iconic landmarks in film music, but he also composed for dramas, comedies, and other genres. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2016 for The Hateful Eight. » Read more

2020-06-14
Keith Tippett RIP – One of the giants of British jazz has left us. Keith Graham Tippetts, known professionally as Keith Tippett, died today at the age of 72. His work from the late 60s into the 70s and beyond includes some of the greatest jazz produced in the UK, and stands as an impressive oevre to this day. » Read more

2020-05-15
Phil May of The Pretty Things RIP – We were saddened to learn that Phil May, lead singer and founding member of The Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75. The band's 1968 album S.F. Sorrow is one of the enduring classics of the psychedelic era, and the group existed in various forms until finally retiring in 2018. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Emily Bezar - Exchange – With Exchange, California singer/songwriter/keyboardist Emily Bezar has produced her definitive (so far) musical statement. The elements that have contributed to her past releases (progressive rock,...  (2008) » Read more

David Cross Band - Alive in the Underworld – Ex-Crimson violinist David Cross has been pretty consistently refining his post-Crimson ideas for the past ten years or so. It’s no quantum leap to expect him to take his message literally to...  (2009) » Read more

Jean-Luc Ponty - Life Enigma – I’m probably not unique in my history with Jean-Luc Ponty. I discovered his inventive, melodic jazz-fusion violin playing with his albums of the seventies like Enigmatic Ocean and Imaginary Voyage,...  (2002) » Read more

Polite Force - Canterbury Knights – Mark Hewins’s longtime jamming project released a disc in 1996 after many years of existence in local obscurity. The band had a floating set of players as wide ranging as Richard Sinclair and...  (2001) » Read more

Headshear - Headshear – Guitar junkies wake up! This one’s for you. I’ve had the good fortune to see this instrumental four-piece play a couple times around the Bay Area, and the varied and mesmerizing...  (2007) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues